Cheesy Bacon, Mushroom and Spinach Breakfast Strata

Sunday, October 23, 2016
The days are getting cooler and shorter now, and I'm starting to think about comfort food. And there isn't much that's more comforting than this simple breakfast strata. It always comes back to the cheese, doesn't it? There's enough of it in this recipe to warm you up on the coldest of days. But with both spinach and mushrooms in the recipe, you can convince yourself you're eating healthy, too. And don't let the name "Breakfast Strata" fool you - this is wonderful served any time of day.

Cheesy Bacon, Mushroom and Spinach Breakfast Strata
(adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)


9 - 10 slices bacon, cooked, coarsely chopped, drippings reserved
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped or sliced
1 cup baby spinach, coarsely chopped
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese (first amount)
1 small loaf of bread (about 10 ounces), slightly staled, cut into 3/4" cubes
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup mozzarella cheese (second amount)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Fresh chives, chopped (optional)


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Heat 2 Tbsp of the reserved bacon drippings in a 10" skillet and place over medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until all the moisture has been released and has evaporated. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and return to the heat.

Add the spinach to the pan and toss, cooking just until slightly wilted but still bright green. Remove from the pan and turn off the heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs until completely blended, seasoning them with salt and fresh black pepper. Add cheddar cheese, 1 cup mozzarella and bread, and fold together with a spatula until all the bread has been moistened.

Turn mixture into a 1 1/2 quart baking dish, pressing down if necessary. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the strata is set and the top is golden brown.

Sprinkle with chives (if using) and serve. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge up to 3 days.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

One of the advantages of Canadian Thanksgiving being six weeks earlier than its American counterpart is that I can share my Thanksgiving recipes in time for many of you to use. When I went looking for my pumpkin pie recipe online and realized I hadn't posted it yet, I knew I wouldn't let another year go by without putting it up.

I've made this recipe for years and can't think of a single thing I'd do to improve it. Well, that's not completely true: The filling is exquisite, but in a perfect world I'd be a slightly better pie-crust maker. Although everyone around the table claimed to like it, I felt I could do better. That's why I'm not sharing a pie crust recipe below - use whichever one you like best.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in Canada, and a happy Columbus Day to my American friends!

The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie
Adapted slightly from Bon Appetit

Your favourite pie crust recipe

3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 1/4 cups solid pack pumpkin
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sour cream
3 large eggs, beaten to blend

Make your pie crust according to recipe directions. Freeze for 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line crust with foil, pressing firmly, and bake until sides are set, about 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake crust until pale brown, about 10 minutes more. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

To make filling, mix sugar, brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger and salt until no lumps remain. Blend in pumpkin, whipping cream, sour cream and eggs.

Pour filling in partially-baked crust. Bake until filling puffs at edges and centre is almost set, about 55 minutes. Cool on rack. Cover and chill until cold.

Can be made 1 day ahead.

Sweet potato cakes

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Well, hi there.

I can't believe it's been a month since my last post. And while that recipe was for a summer crisp, today - with a chilly, constant rain pounding against our windows - my thoughts are veering to the autumnal.

These Sweet Potato Cakes are the kind of recipe that make you glad for the cooler weather. They're hearty and full of flavour, and pack up beautifully to take to lunch the next day. A little of the accompanying sauce goes a long way, and I thought these savoury cakes were great even on their own.

Happy fall!

Sweet Potato Cakes
(from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi)

1 pound sweet potatoes

1 1/2 Tbsp Greek yogurt
1 1/2 Tbsp sour cream
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp chopped cilantro
salt and black pepper

1 tsp soy sauce
scant 6 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped green onion
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

butter for frying

Steam the sweet potatoes until completely soft, then let drain in a colander for at least an hour. Mash and set aside.

To make the sauce, whisk together Greek yogurt, sour cream, olive oil, lemon juice, cilantro, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Place the sweet potatoes in a bowl and add soy sauce, flour, salt, sugar, green onion, and crushed red peppers. Mix thoroughly by hand to prevent overmixing (otherwise the mixture will become gummy).

Melt some butter in a non-stick frying pan. Form sweet potato mixture into 6 - 8 disks. Fry on medium heat until golden, then flip and repeat. Place between two paper towels to blot the excess butter. Serve with sauce on the side.

A summer crisp

Sunday, September 4, 2016

I was inspired to bake this nectarine crisp after reading Ruth Reichl's My Kitchen Year. (If you haven't read it yet, do yourself a favour and pick it up. It's excellent as both a cookbook and a journal of the former editor of Gourmet magazine's first year after the magazine shut down.)

She described visiting the farmers' market in September, picking up "the last lonely nectarines, rosy but hard as rocks," and baking them into a galette. Before reading that, I had no idea you could bake unripe fruit into a dessert; of course I had to try it out. At my local market, I stopped at the bin of nectarines (which were indeed rosy but hard as rocks). I baked mine into a crisp rather than a galette: served with ice cream, it was a perfect dessert for the last fleeting days of summer. 

Nectarine crisp
(inspired by My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl)
Note: this would also be lovely made with peaches


4 unripe nectarines (5 if they're small)
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon

3/4 cup flour
6 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp white sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
6 Tbsp cold butter

Slice the nectarines (you should have about 3 cups). Toss them with 2 Tbsp flour and 1/2 cup sugar. Squeeze in the lemon juice and give it a stir. Let them sit and macerate for at least 45 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the crisp topping by combining 3/4 cup flour, brown sugar and 3 Tbsp white sugar until thoroughly mixed. Add cinnamon and salt. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Set aside.

When the nectarines are done macerating, pour them into a small buttered casserole dish. Top with crisp topping and pat gently into place. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Serve warm with ice cream.

September's coming soon

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Remembering that night
September's coming soon
I'm pining for the moon
And what if there were two
Side by side in orbit
Around the fairest sun?
The bright tide forever drawn
Could not describe nightswimming"

- from "Nightswimming," by REM

September is indeed coming soon, and I was looking for one last entree recipe this week that would be perfect for summer's end. I wanted to make a pasta dish that featured the zucchini and corn that are at their best right now. And I found exactly that, with pesto, bacon and grated parmesan to give it a bold flavour.

I scaled down the pasta from the original a little because I wanted the vegetables to shine, and they did. This recipe makes a large batch, but it's also perfect for next-day lunch leftovers, served at room temperature.

Zucchini, Corn and Pesto Fusilli

Adapted from Epicurious
Note: recipe could be halved


6 bacon slices
3 cups dry fusilli (or similar pasta)
3 ears of corn, kernels cut from cob
2 medium zucchini, coarsely chopped (1/2" pieces)
1 container (approximately 7 ounces) basil pesto
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until crisp. Drain on paper towels; discard drippings from skillet.

Meanwhile, cook fusilli in a pasta pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water, then add vegetables to pasta in pot. Cook, partially covered, for 2-3 minutes (the water will stop boiling, and that's okay). Drain.

Add pasta with vegetables to skillet, along with pesto and 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water and toss. Season with salt and moisten with additional cooking water if necessary.

Top with crumbled bacon and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve warm (although room temperature leftovers the next day are also superb).

No dress rehearsal

Sunday, August 21, 2016

"First thing we'd climb a tree and maybe then we'd talk
Or sit silently and listen to our thoughts
With illusions of someday casting a golden light
No dress rehearsal, this is our life"

- from "Ahead by a Century," by The Tragically Hip

Lately when I read the news, I'm reminded of how many things disunite us. The headlines are full of "us and them" stories, and tales in which we see the worst of humanity. So it's a reason to celebrate when something happens that pulls us together.

Last night was the final concert of The Tragically Hip, one of the most beloved Canadian bands ever. Their lead singer, Gord Downie, is often called the poet laureate of our country. When Downie announced earlier this year that he had inoperable brain cancer, and this summer's tour would be their last, we mourned this band that told us so many stories about ourselves.

The Hip has been together for over 30 years. They sing about uniquely Canadian people and events - Bill Barilko, Hugh MacLennan, David Milgaard, the FLQ kidnapping. They unite people across the country, rural and urban, and across generations. On our first wedding anniversary, Andrew and I danced to "Boots or Hearts" at a work event; now our youngest daughter performs a brilliant air vocal of the same song.

Last night our national broadcaster, the CBC, aired the show commercial-free on TV, radio, and via streaming. Andrew and I watched from our back yard; many others saw it in public squares or at pool parties - or at a viewing party at the Rio Olympics.

At a time when many things tear us apart, it was a privilege to be one of millions of Canadians paying tribute to someone who unites us.

"It was in Bobcaygeon
I saw the constellations
Reveal themselves, one star at a time"

- from "Bobcaygeon," by The Tragically Hip

Raspberry Chocolate Tart
(adapted from Epicurious)


1 1/2 cups chocolate water cookie crumbs
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp sugar


1 1/2 pints (3 cups) fresh raspberries
1/4 cup sugar (first amount)
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
1/2 chilled heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar (second amount)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract


1 pint (2 cups) fresh raspberries
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam


For crust, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cookie crumbs, melted butter and sugar until evenly moistened. Press mixture onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Bake until set, about 10 minutes. Cool completely on rack..

For the filling, combine raspberries, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp water and lemon juice in processor and puree until smooth. Pour puree through strainer set over medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard seeds in strainer. Combine mascarpone, heavy whipping cream, vanilla and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in another bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until mixture is thick and smooth. Stir in raspberry puree and spread filling evenly in cooled chocolate crust. Cover and refrigerate tart overnight.

Arrange fresh raspberries in concentric circles atop tart. Stir raspberry preserves in heavy small saucepan over medium-low heat until melted to form glaze. Brush glaze over fresh raspberries. Refrigerate tart at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.

Remove tart pan sides, place tart on platter, and cut into slices and serve.

Toronto in the summer

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A sunny day, a delicious picnic lunch, a beautiful skyline, a family walk, a father-daughter game of catch. And most of all, the girls on break from their camp jobs, for a rare summer day at home. Just a few of the things that made last Monday such a special day. (Apparently you are never too old to visit the ice cream truck, and that is a good thing.)

These peach bars would be a fabulous addition to any picnic, whether it's down by the lake or in your own backyard. What I love about this recipe is that it makes a small but delicious batch - just enough to enjoy for a few meals without feeling guilty. These bars are truly a portable slice of summer!

Peach Pie bars
(adapted from Dessert for Two)

3 small slightly underripe peaches (note: just ripe is fine too)
1 Tbsp Scotch whiskey
1 Tbsp brown sugar
7 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a 9" x 5" loaf pan with parchment paper.
Peel the peaches and slice them into 1/4" thick slices. Place them in a bowl and pour the whiskey and brown sugar on top. Let soak while you make the crust.
To make the crust, combine the butter, sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl. Place 1/4 cup of the dough aside, then press the rest in the bottom of the loaf pan. Pack it firmly and evenly.
Stir the cornstarch into the peach mixture, then pour the mixture over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough on top.
Bake 35 - 40 minutes, until fragrant and golden brown. Let squares cool completely before cutting.
Makes 8 bars.