O Canada!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Yesterday was a glorious first of July, the celebration of Canada's 150th birthday. We chose not to be part of the crowd at one of the official celebrations (here in Toronto, and across the country), opting for a morning walk along the shore of Lake Ontario. It was the perfect way to reflect on how grateful we are to live in this beautiful country and enjoy its many freedoms.
Downtown Toronto in the background, Lake Ontario to the right

Raising a 150 memorial

Early morning mist make the CN Tower look like a ghost ship

The Canada Day dessert I served for dinner definitely has colonial roots, but I put a Canadian spin on it. While a typical Eton Mess is made with strawberries, I gave ours a twist with raspberries, and a thick streak of raspberry sauce. The result was a lovely, summery dessert that we were happy to linger over in the back yard. Happy Canada Day!

Eton Mess: The Canada Day variation

This is more of a guideline than a recipe. I put half in a large glass bowl, and the other half in individual stemmed glasses. Layer the various components in whatever order you like, being sure that  the meringue is always next to whipped cream (either above or below).

4 egg whites
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp vinegar

Raspberry sauce
1 1/2 cups raspberries
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp raspberry jam

For assembly
2 cups whipping cream
2 Tbsp sugar
1 pint raspberries

To make the meringues, preheat the oven to 275 degrees, and prepare  two 9" cake pans by lining the bottom with parchment paper, and buttering the sides. Beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Increase speed to high, then add brown sugar and white sugar a tablespoon at a time until incorporated. Beat until stiff. Add vanilla and vinegar, and beat another 1-2 minutes. Divide the meringue mixture between the two cake pans, and smooth the tops. Bake for one hour, then turn off the heat in the oven, prop the door with a wooden spoon, and let them sit in the oven another hour.  Break the meringues into small pieces and set aside.

To make the raspberry sauce, combine berries, sugar and jam in a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Let thicken, then remove from heat and cool until ready to use.

To assemble the dessert, either use a large glass bowl or individual glasses (or a combination, as I did). Start with whipping cream on the bottom, then layer meringues, raspberry sauce, berries and more whipping cream to the top. Make sure you reserve enough raspberries to decorate the top of the dessert. Enjoy!

Rhubarb Plum Crumble

Sunday, June 11, 2017

When I was growing up, rhubarb was always our first fruit of the spring. I remember my mom going back to the rhubarb plants behind my grandparents' house, and coming back with a bowl of rosy stalks. While it wasn't my favourite fruit as a kid (it's pretty tart), there was one way I always loved it - my mom's rhubarb pie with an oatmeal crisp base and topping. It was the perfect way to celebrate the beginning of the growing season.

Since then I've grown to love rhubarb in many ways. Every spring I buy at least one big bunch to bake with, and my rhubarb apple crisp is a new classic that I make at least once a year.

This crumble had a little extra sweetness from the plums, but otherwise it brought back memories of my mom's pie. The most vibrant spring flavours, with a squeeze of sunshine: It doesn't get better than that.

Rhubarb plum crumble

1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar (first amount)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 Tbsp maple syrup (first amount)
3 1/2 cups chopped, pitted plums
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup maple syrup (second amount)
2 Tbsp brown sugar (second amount)
1 Tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Toss together the flour, oats, 1/2 cup brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and pecans until everything is well-combined.

In a small bowl, mix together melted butter and 2 Tbsp maple syrup. Pour over the oat mixture and stir until evenly combined. Set aside.

Place chopped plums and rhubarb, lemon juice, 1/3 cup maple syrup, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, and flour in a bowl and combine. Pour fruit into an 8" x 8" baking pan and top with crumble.

Bake for 35 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling. let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Holiday weekend

Sunday, May 21, 2017

It's our holiday weekend in Canada, the long weekend in May that's the unofficial kickoff to summer. And the weather is ... not so great. Although yesterday was cool and sunny, it's downright cold today, and it's been raining off and on all day. It's less of a "burgers in the backyard" kind of day than a "nourishing bowl at the kitchen table" moment.

Well, I'm happy to oblige. This vegetable fried rice kept me toasty warm as I watched the rain pelting on the barbecue cover, from inside the house. The recipe isn't difficult, although you'll want to have all the ingredients chopped and ready to go before you get started, because the recipe moves quickly once you begin.

I also wrote about the cold, wet weather in my last post; it seems to be the theme of the month. Looking at the weather forecast, I see they're calling for sun tomorrow, followed by another week of rain. So I'd better get that "burgers in the backyard" day in fast!

Vegetable Fried Rice
(adapted from Cookie and Kate)

Note: I halved the original recipe, and got 2+ servings. If you're cooking for a bigger group, check out the original recipe which would serve 4-5 people.


3/4 tsp safflower oil (first amount)
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp safflower oil (second amount)
1/2 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced carrots
1 cup additional vegetables, cut into very small pieces for quick cooking (see photo above for size reference) - could include asparagus, cabbage, bell pepper, fresh or frozen peas, snow peas or broccoli)
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp safflower oil (third amount)
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup cooked brown rice  (note: if you cook the rice especially for the recipe rather than using leftovers, you'll need about 1/2 cup dry rice. Cook the rice before you start the recipe.)
1/2 cup greens
2 green onions, chopped
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil


This recipe comes together quickly, so make sure you've chopped all the vegetables and set all the ingredients in a convenient spot.

Warm a large skillet over medium high heat, then add 3/4 tsp safflower owl and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the egg and cook until lightly set, stirring along the way. Transfer the eggs to a bowl and wipe out the pan with a spatula.

Return pan to heat and add 1 1/2 tsp oil. Add onion and carrots and cook, stirring often, about 3 - 5 minutes.

Add remaining vegetables and salt. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally (not too often or the edges won't turn golden), about 3 - 5 more minutes.

In the meantime, use the spatula to break up the scrambled eggs into smaller pieces.

Transfer the vegetable mixture to the pan with the cooked eggs.

Return the pan to the heat, and add the remaining 1 1/2 tsp oil. Add ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes, and stir constantly for about 30 seconds. Add the rice and mix it all together. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is hot and starting to turn golden on the edges, about 3 - 5 minutes.

Add greens and green onions, and stir to combine.  (Greens should be just starting to wilt.) Add cooked vegetables and eggs, and stir again to combine. Remove from heat and stir in soy sauce and sesame oil. Taste, and add extra salt if necessary.

Divide into bowls and serve immediately. Leftovers store well in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.

Early Bird

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Still dark, and raining hard
on a cold May morning

and yet the early bird
is out there chirping,

chirping its sweet-sour
wooden-pulley notes,

pleased, it would seem,
to be given work,

hauling the heavy
bucket of dawn

up from the darkness,
note over note,

and letting us drink.

-Ted Kooser, "The Early Bird"

The first week of May in Toronto was very cold ... and very wet. We got more rain in four days than we usually do all month. And although I didn't pull my winter coat out again (it's May, for heaven's sake!) I saw more than a few of them on the streets this week.

When I heard the weather forecast for the weekend was more rain, I knew comfort food was in the offing. Apple recipes are usually the domain of the fall, but a cold, wet spring demands the reassurance only a spiced applesauce cake can bring.

In the end, the weather forecast was wrong (insert your favourite weatherman joke here), and we enjoyed sun most of the day. But this lovely cake is a treat no matter what the weather.

Spiced Applesauce Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
(slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

For cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

For frosting

5 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup conectioners’ sugar (icing sugar)
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a non-stick 8” or 9” square cake pan.

Make cake: Whisk together flour, baking pwder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed for 2 – 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in applesauce. Mix in flour mixture until just combined.

Spread batter evenly in pan and bake about 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Cool completely before frosting.

Make frosting: Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add butter and vanilla, and beat until fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon, then beat at medium speed until incorporated.

Spread frosting over top of cooled cake.

Miss Congeniality

Sunday, April 23, 2017
It's hard to photograph beige food.

No matter what you do when you photograph it, it just looks ... beige. And that's a real shame when it comes to a recipe that tastes as amazing as this one.

You may remember that a few weeks ago, I discovered how delicious farro is, and how easy it is to prepare. So this recipe for farro risotto with roasted cauliflower and gruyere was next on my list to try. If anything, I like it even better, despite its rather pale and timid appearance.

So think about this meal as the equivalent of the wallflower at a party. It may not be the recipe that makes you do a double-take, but it just might make you happy for the rest of your life.

Cauliflower and Gruyere Farro Risotto
(from Eats Well With Others)


1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
2 Tbsp olive oil (first amount)
salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp olive oil (second amount)
1 shallot, diced
2 cups farro
5-6 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups gruyere, grated


Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Spread the cauliflower on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and coat in 2 Tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until browned and crispy, tossing once halfway through. Set aside.

In a large pot, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the shallot and saute for 3-4 minutes, seasoning with a pinch of salt. Stir in the farro and cook for 1 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 2 cups of broth to the pot, and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring frequently, until most of the water has evaporated. Add the remaining broth 1 cup at a time, only adding more when the previous batch has just evaporated, stirring frequently, until farro is tender. (Test after you've stirred in 5 cups of broth - you may not need to add more.)

Stir in the cauliflower and the cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Banana Muffins

Sunday, April 16, 2017

I've made these muffins many times but didn't post them until now, probably because everyone has their own favourite banana muffin recipe. But I think this one is so good, it's worth checking out.

Since I have bananas in the house most of the time, I've made many a muffin to use the overripe ones. But I was usually disappointed - so often, the finished product relied on add-ins like chocolate chips for flavour. It took me a long time, and many false starts, before I found a recipe that I thought was a keeper. The three bananas in the mix provide a ton of flavour; pecans are a nice (but not necessary) addition.

And although the original recipe called for a streusel topping, these muffins don't require any dressing up. Simple enough for breakfast, delicious enough for dessert, these banana muffins are perfect for any occasion, or no occasion at all.

Banana Muffins
(adapted from Hidden Ponies)

1 egg
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (note: you can substitute half of this amount with whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin pan with paper liners (unless you're using a silicone pan, in which case liners aren't necessary).

Whisk egg, bananas and butter in a large bowl until thoroughly combined.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add to banana mixture and stir until just combined. If you're adding pecans, add them in and stir just to combine.

Spoon mixture into muffin pan (makes 10 - 12 muffins, depending on how big the bananas were). Bake for 17 - 20 minutes or until tops are browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

A farro story

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Every once in a while I post a recipe that I've been waiting to try for ages, and this is one of those. I first bookmarked it in late 2014, and I've kept it on my must-try list since. I'm not sure why it took me so long to make it, except I'd never cooked with farro before.  (For the record, it's super-easy.)

I finally made the salad this week, and it was more than worth the wait. The original recipe called for brie, which would also be nice, but I loved the way the gruyere stood up to the other strong flavours. If you don't have farro in your cupboard, barley would be a nice substitute. And feel free to use whatever combination of roasted vegetables you like best. In other words, this is a really easy recipe to play around with - but next time I make it, I won't change a thing.

Farro Salad with Butternut Squash, Red Onion and Gruyere
(adapted from Eats Well With Others)


3 cups water
1 cup farro, rinsed (note: barley would also be nice)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium red onion, diced
6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 Tbsp minced fresh sage
3/4 cup diced gruyere
salt and pepper to taste


Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss together the olive oil, butternut squash, red onion and carrots. Season to taste with salt. Spread onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, or until tender.

In the meantime, bring water and farro to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 25 - 30 minutes or until farro is cooked. Drain excess water.

When the vegetables are roasted, toss them with the farro, sage and gruyere. Season to taste with salt and fresh pepper.