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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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We’ve had a lot of jam this summer. Cherry to start, and peach and apricot, moving on to blackberry and combinations of such. Blackberries haven’t been in season early enough for the past ten years or so we’ve been spending a chunk of middle summer in Tofino, but this year and last we’ve been spending a chunk of every day picking them. My typical routine involves walking down the road for a (locally-roasted) coffee, drinking it on the log out front, and then filling my empty cup to the brim with ripe blackberries on the way home. My favourite jams are made with berries and stone fruits, all of which get along splendidly together in whatever ratio you happen to have attracting fruit flies on your countertop. The beauty of jam is that you can toss all that fruit into your pot, or slice it, or squish it, and add half or so as much sugar as there is fruit (a more typical ratio isContinue reading

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I did most of my camping – fulfilled my lifetime quota, I think – in my twenties, and now I have an 11 (!!) year old who only wants to go camping, not so much for the tenting and sleeping outdoors but mostly for the fire, and the cooking of food over it. Although you can get pretty much any kitchen gadget in convenient campsize (I even saw a full-sized blender with a hand crank at a store out here in Tofino), what makes camping so much fun is the sport of finding ways to cook in and over hot coals. My camp kitchen tools of choice: a good bed of coals, a cast iron pan (which, depending on how you camp, may be too heavy to lug around), a bowl and spoon that can be rinsed in the river, and a few good, straight, not-too dry sticks. The boys are usually in charge of seeking these out, and stripping them of any intrusive branches.

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