Category Archives: desserts

(Hello Dolly!) Swalty Chocolate Bars

Well hello there, thanks for stopping by!

I spent the last week in Vegas for a company trip, and upon returning home late on Friday night I knew I probably wouldn’t have the energy to do much on Saturday except catch up on sleep.  When a friend invited me to her house for a BBQ, I wanted to accept but knew I couldn’t go empty-handed.  I did a quick survey of my fridge and knew I would have to decide between either (a) going to the grocery store to pick up ingredients to make a dessert, or (b) making do with what I had on hand, even if that meant making something without butter, eggs, or fresh fruit.  I’m never one to back down from a challenge, so I darted into my walk-in pantry (aka storage room) and contemplated my options.  Besides, I wanted to have a nap and going to the grocery store would cut into my precious sleeping time.

You should also know that this dilemma was further complicated by the fact that the hostess of said-BBQ was my lovely hairdresser Wendy, which meant that I couldn’t just show up; I had to show up and look half-decent.  In other words, I couldn’t spend long cooking; I had to do my hair!

Hmm…what to make, what to make.  I started grabbing random pantry ingredients, since the contents of my fridge were rather pathetic – a cake mix (embarrassing but true; I’m a hoarder, remember?), some marshmallows, and chocolate chips for good measure.  A can of petite diced tomatoes rounded out the mix, and with my arms full I sauntered into the kitchen ready to create something edible without having to change out of my sweats to go to the grocery store.

Once in the kitchen, I surveyed my goods, and made the executive decision to make a pan of gooey bar cookie/brownies/whatchamacallits.  Everyone loves chocolate, I reasoned, and a pan full of something would be less finicky to make than drop cookies.  I needed all the time I could get for my nap and hair, after all.

I vaguely recalled that Hello Dolly bars are always a hit at parties, and wondered if I could replicate something similar using what I had on hand.  I scrummaged around and found some shredded coconut and a bag of chopped walnuts in the freezer, and unearthed a can of sweetened condensed milk from the pantry. How this stuff gets here, I’ll never know, but on occasions like this one I’m always grateful to not have to leave my house or pick up TimBits.   I preheated the oven to 350 degrees, ditched the marshmallows and tomatoes, armed myself with an apron and spatula, and got to work!

I began by mixing the dry cake mix with 1/2 c of canola oil, until it formed a dough.  As a sidenote, have you ever made cookies using a cake mix?  I would have probably done that, if I had eggs or butter or the desire to get dressed and leave my house.

Next, I ate 1/4 of the dough patted the dough into a 9×13″ pan that had been lined with parchment paper.

If the dough looks glossy greasy, its because it is.  No way around that one, folks.  This was NOT a situation where I was trying to make something healthy; it was a situation where I was trying to make something quickly so I could do my hair.

It’s all about priorities, after all.

Once I made peace with the grease, I then sprinkled 1 c each of coconut, chopped walnuts, and chocolate chips on top of the chocolate base…

…and then poured a can of sweetened condensed milk, otherwise known as nectar of the South, evenly on top.

Sweet, sweet, goodness.

It was at this point that I stared at the pan that was before me; the pan that contained enough sugar to put anyone into a diabetic coma, and wanted to add another layer of complexity.  Since I adore anything that is sweet and salty (or swalty), I recalled the chocolate covered caramel pretzel rods that I love so dearly (and therefore never make), and knew instantly that I needed to add a salty element to these bars.  I dashed into my pantry again, and emerged exactly 11.27 seconds later with a bag of these beauties:

Oh happy day!  I smashed up 10 or so, using the bowl from the chocolate batter base and the jar of coconut since I try to avoid doing dishes at all costs.

I put the pretzel pieces over the sweetened condensed milk, and gently pressed them in so they’d stay put. And not end up on my hips by way of my mouth, since we all know that pretzels like to travel.

I popped the whole lot in the oven, jumped in the shower, and in 25 minutes pulled a pan of pure goodness out of the oven.  I left them to cool, and quickly got ready to head out.

A few hours later, after we were all stuffed with grilled chicken and fabulous side dishes, it was time for dessert.

(I’d show you a picture of the pan when it just came out of the oven, but it looks almost identical to the pre-oven shot so just use your imagination, ok?)

I nervously cut into the pan, not sure what to expect.

They cut cleanly; that was a good sign.

With the disclaimer that this was a last-minute throw together type dessert, I quickly summoned the children to do some quality control prior to placing the bars on a plate and bringing them to the adult table.  The children approved – 6 year olds have discerning palates, in case you weren’t aware – and deemed them “safe” for the grown-ups.

You guys.  These.Are. Awesome.  They are sweet, salty, rich, and decadent.  They are serious. Cut them into small pieces, or have insulin on stand-by. They were referred to as “the best dessert I’ve ever had”, and R told me the only time I could make them again was for special occasions, like winning the lottery.  Yes, they’re THAT good.  Make them for your next BBQ with your hairdresser, or your sister, or your neighbour, or The Bachelorette.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to make sure your hair looks good!

(Wannabe Vegan) Zucchini Bread

My name is Jaclyn and I’m a wannabe vegan.

(Hi, Jaclyn)

Sigh…it’s true.  Sometimes, I flirt with veganism.  In fact, just last night, R* and I had a conversation about it.  It went a little something like this:

Me: I think I’m going to become a vegan.

R: Oh no, not again…(rolls eyes)…why on earth would you want to do that?

Me: Oh, I think it would be good for me. And the environment.

R:  So you wouldn’t eat any dairy, eggs, meat, or fish? Wouldn’t that be difficult?

Me: Well, I’m not supposed to eat dairy, so that’s one less thing to give up.  How hard could it be?

R: True.  But what about bacon and butter?

Me: Good point.  Can I still be considered a vegan if I eat bacon and butter?

R: No.  That doesn’t count. If you eat those things you’re not a true vegan.

Me: Hmm.  Fine.  Guess I’ll be a wannabe vegan then.

*True story; names have been changed to protect the innocent.

In all seriousness, I do think that I could adapt to a vegan diet, or a mostly vegan diet with the occasional slice of double-smoked bacon and smear of fresh creamery butter, of course.  It would be an adjustment, but not an impossible one.

However, as you may have picked up on by now, I love to bake.  I’ve been unsure about how to adapt many of my favourite recipes and create new ones that don’t include eggs or dairy and are still mouth-watering good.  There are many vegan substitutes for dairy (soymilk, almond milk, and the like), but eggs? That’s a whole different animal.  Literally, I suppose.

However, I am never one to back down from a challenge.  I am also never one to allow a 69-cent zucchini perish in my fridge, so I did some experimenting and here’s what I came up with.  Wannabe vegan with me?

Oh good, I was hoping you’d say yes! Here’s what we’ll be playing with today:

Flour (I’m using all-purpose and whole-wheat spelt), baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ground flax-seed, buttermilk, coconut oil, applesauce, brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla, zucchini, winter squash (optional), walnuts or pecans (optional).

In my extensive research on vegan baking over the years, I’ve found that many sources recommend using a “flax egg”.  Essentially, ground flaxseed is mixed with warm water and left to sit for 10 minutes or so until it becomes gelatinous.

Easy enough, right?

I dutifully ground up my flaxseed, using my trusty Magic Bullet.  I used to use my coffee grinder, but after a few rather nutty cups of Pike Place I learned my lesson.

However, I’m a wannabe vegan, not a full-blown one.  I am, however, full-blown Scottish, so I wasn’t going to let the buttermilk in my fridge go bad while I used (gasp!) water.

Buttermilk flax egg? Don’t mind if I do.

I whirled up 3 T of ground flaxseed meal with 9T of buttermilk (that’s 1/2 c + 1T, in case you’re wondering), and began to doubt whether or not I should quickly run to the store for eggs while the oven was pre-heating.

(Side note: maybe this bread should be called “I’m too lazy to run to the store since its raining and too frugal to let my buttermilk go bad and what on earth am I going to do with this zucchini that is knocking on death’s door? bread”.  I think that has a nice ring to it, don’t you?)

One look at my fuzzy slippers and sweats and the decision was easy.  I left the buttermilk and the flax-seed to its own devices, and got started on the dry ingredients.  With fingers crossed, of course.  And toes.

Sorry, true vegans.  I promise the rest of the recipe doesn’t contain any more dairy, eggs, or bacon.  At least, not this round.  Can’t make any promises for (Wannabe Vegan) Zucchini Bread 2.0.

Since I like to complicate things, I figured since I was making something practically vegan, I might as well also make it almost healthy.  So, I used a combination of whole wheat and all-purpose flour, but you can use whatever you have on hand.

I’m trying to deplete my 13 types of flour, can you tell?

In the mix:

1.5 c AP flour
1.5 c whole wheat or spelt flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves

Give it a stir and set it aside.

Next, the wet ingredients!

Grab yourself some coconut oil and melt it down – 1/3 of a cup or so.  If you’d prefer, you can use a neutral flavoured oil instead.  If you’re feeling particularly rebellious, you can use melted butter.  Off the record, of course.

Add the oil to a bowl, and then dump in the rest of the wet ingredients:

If you’re thinking that’s not a lot of oil, you’re right – I wannabe healthy, after all! Besides, I had exactly ⅔ c of homemade (cinnamon) applesauce in my fridge that didn’t want to be left out, so I figured I could cut the oil down considerably from a typical quick bread.  I also wanted to be mindful of the sugar, as many quick breads are deliciously sweet but sometimes more cake than breakfast material.  I ended up adding 2/3 c each of brown and white sugar, and found the bread perfectly sweetened for my (terribly jaded) taste buds.  Throw the buttermilk-flax (wannabe) egg in with this, and you’re good to go.

Oh yes, and I also added the about 2 t vanilla. Obviously.  Everything is better with vanilla.

Before I introduced the wet and dry ingredients to each other, I grated up my zucchini – all 69-cents of it.

Houston, we have a problem: apparently I needed $1.38 worth of zucchini, as I could only get 1 c worth and I knew just by looking at it that I probably needed double the amount for the amount of batter I was making.

Kabocha squash (aka Japanese Pumpkin) to the rescue!

I chose this because it’s sweet and mild, and I figured it would blend into the bread well.  And also because it was sitting on the counter and the thought of another bowl of squash soup is about as appealing as going for a 10km run in a torrential downpour.

Just a heads up: the next recipe you’ll see on here will probably be for squash soup.  Consider yourself warned.

However, if you like leaving your house more than me, you could use grated zucchini (2 c total), or a combo of zucchini, butternut, kabocha, or pumpkin. I won’t judge.

Time for the magic to happen.

Love at first sight?

Not quite; still shy.

Everybody play nice now…just because the eggs didn’t show up doesn’t mean you have to rebel.

Ahh, that’s better.

(I’m not going to lie, I was completely nervous at this point. Embarrassing but true.  Had I made a mistake by not running out to the store to get more eggs????)

After about 50 minutes at 350-degrees, I would soon find out.

Hmm….smells delicious and looks promising, but how will they hold up once they’re out of their pans?

Dare I say I’m impressed?!?!

The bread rose just fine, and held together beautifully.  It is perfectly moist with really nice warm spice undertones.  Wannabe vegan or not, this sure is a winner in my books.

Wannabe healthy? Try this bread for breakfast or a quick snack instead of an oil and sugar laden bakery muffin or quick bread.

Wannabe frugal? Experiment with what you have on hand instead of buying more.

Wannabe vegan? Yes please!

Chocolate Swirled Peanut Butter Banana Bread

When you were a kid, did your parents ever tell you that TV would rot your brain? I can’t remember if mine did or not – does that mean my brain has already rotted? Either way, I watched more TV than I should have as a child, and (most days) my brain works alright.

A few years ago, I made the decision to go without a TV.  Criticized by many and understood by few, it was the right thing for me at the time.  Truthfully, I haven’t really missed it, with the exception of a few odd times.  Besides, I always told myself that if I really wanted to watch TV, I could just go to the gym.

Let’s just say I haven’t watched much TV since my days of “Who’s The Boss?” and my gym membership has remained mostly unused since 2007.

The other day, I made a grave mistake: I plugged my TV into the wall, and – lo and behold – I have cable. Who knew?!?!

Naturally, I did what any good Martha-wannabe would do and I turned it to the Food Network.  “Recipe for Riches” was on – have you heard of it? I hadn’t, but it is a reality show of sorts.  Contestants were competing for the best cake in Canada, and the winner will have their product reproduced under the Presidents Choice Brand.  They also win $25,00o in prize money, if you’re into that kind of thing.

One of the final 2 contestants made this cake called Banana Chocolate WOW cake, or something to that effect.  It was a banana cake with a chocolate filling, and a white chocolate cream cheese icing.  One of the judges commented that her cake was good because it wasn’t as dense as banana breads usually are (clearly, banana cake shouldn’t be as dense), and I’ll admit that while at the end of the episode neither she or the cake WOW’d me (or the judges; she lost so you can save yourself the hour it would take to watch the episode), it made me decide to share my version of banana bread with you sooner rather than later.

What are your thoughts on banana bread? Mine are that it is usually too dense, too greasy, too light, or not enough banana flavour.  I know, I’m so fickle! Don’t you agree though? Many quick breads suffer from the same ailment, but many have not yet achieved the perfect flavour/texture balance.

Until now that is.  Enter my new love – chocolate swirled peanut butter banana bread.  Because really, isn’t everything better with peanut butter and chocolate? 

Oil (canola or grapeseed), buttermilk, bananas, brown sugar, peanut butter (I like natural), vanilla, AP flour, WW flour, eggs, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, chocolate chips.

In a large bowl, mash 3 large bananas.

Add 3/4 c brown sugar, 1/3 c oil, 1/3 c buttermilk, 1/3 c peanut butter, 2 eggs, and 1.5 t vanilla, and beat until everything is well acquainted.

In a separate bowl, stir 1 c AP flour, 1 c ww flour, 3/4 t baking powder, 3/4 t baking soda, and 1/2 t salt together.

Stir the dry ingredients in by hand until everything is just barely incorporated.

No one will eat your banana bread if you don’t.

Wondering when the chocolate joins the party? Grab yourself about 1 c of batter in a separate bowl, and sift in 2 -3 T of cocoa powder.

That, my friends, is why we sift. Use a spoon to smoosh the cocoa pebbles (is that a cereal? I was deprived as a child so I’m not sure) through the sieve, then use the spoon to do a little QC on the batter.

But wait! There’s more:

In this instance, “more” refers to about 1/3 c of chocolate chunks.  Did I measure? Ya right.

Stir the batter together, and set it aside.

Grease and flour 2 loaf pans (I doubled the recipe when I took pictures – this bread is in high demand – so please don’t stretch this 4 ways unless you have a hidden talent for multiplying banana bread), and pour about 2/3 of the regular batter in.

Dallop most of the chocolate batter on top…

Top it off with the rest of the regular batter, and whatever you left in the chocolate bowl.  Unless of course you thought the rest of the chocolate batter was for sampling, in which case you go right ahead.

Gently swirl the two batters together.  Make sure you use a clean skewer for each pan so the swirls are equally distinct.

Bake at 350-degrees for about 40-50 minutes.  These babies took exactly 42 minutes in mine.  Aren’t you proud Mom? I used a timer!

In the pan, they smell delicious.

But once I sliced into them?

To me, this is the quintessential banana bread – not too light, not too dense, hints of peanut butter, and a rich chocolate swirl.

Claimed by some to be the best banana bread they’ve ever had, all I can say is WOW.

(Note: Recipe adapted from the wonderful Julie.)

Ponderosa (aka Banana-Chocolate-Chip) Cake

Despite what you may have thought, I haven’t forgotten how to blog.  I’ve actually missed it like crazy! Unfortunately, I was out of commission (literally) for almost 2 months with mono, and then dealt with a stubborn laptop.  Anyways, all is right in the world once again and I should be able to resume a (semi) regular posting schedule 🙂

Let’s talk about cake, shall we? I love it.  Chocolate, Vanilla, Carrot, Lemon…you name it, I love it. This, of course, is no surprise, but if you’d like to act shocked I’d be ok with that.  I also adore a good banana cake, and while it seemed like every one and their mother had what they consider to be the perfect recipe…I was still searching.  Oh sure, I’ve made – and subsequently eaten – many great banana cakes – including a great one with peanut-butter icing that my Mom makes –  but my search continued.  For a while there, I just figured that banana cake perfection didn’t exist, and had resigned myself to trying something different every time.

Then, when I was least expecting it, there was light at the end of my banana cake tunnel! About a year ago, I tasted an absolutely delicious version…one bite and I was hooked.  Was the search over? Would the hostess part with her recipe? Thankfully, yes – she told me the cake was called a Ponderosa cake, and after a short Google session I had the recipe at my fingertips.  And now, my friends, I’m sharing the recipe with you.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

The All-Star Cast:

Butter (duh!), white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, bananas, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sour cream, cinnamon, and chocolate chips.

To start, cream together 1/2 c butter and 3/4 c white sugar.

While the butter and sugar are getting to know each other, get the rest of your ingredients ready.  The fancy term for this is mise-en-place (“everything in its place”), and I can guarantee that it will make the cake come together quickly and effortlessly.

* 1 egg + 1/2 t vanilla

* 2 banana’s, mashed

* 1.5 c flour +1 t baking soda + 1 t baking powder + pinch salt


* 1/2 c sour cream

* 1/4 c brown sugar + 1/2 t  cinnamon

* 3/4 c chocolate chips

Add the egg and vanilla to the creamed butter/sugar mixture, and beat until well combined.

Add the mashed bananas.

Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the wet ones, and gently mix in until just combined.

Next, stir in 1/2 of the sour cream.

Repeat the process until all of the dry ingredients and sour cream have been incorporated.

Now, this is where I diverted from the original recipe.  If I had actually taken the time to read it properly, I would have known that I wasn’t supposed to add all of the chocolate chips at once.

I didn’t read the recipe, and I’m here to report that the only thing that was harmed in the consumption of this cake were my hips.

Oh well, all in the name of research, right?

Spread half of the batter in a greased 8 x 8 ” pan.

Sprinkle evenly with half of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Repeat with the remaining batter and cinnamon-sugar.

Bake at 350-degrees for 40-ish minutes.

If you can wait for more than 5 minutes after it comes out of the over…well, I commend you.

I couldn’t.

I’m not sorry.  This cake is light and moist with a great texture, and is chock-full of flavour.  I think my search for the perfect banana cake is over – is yours?

Until we meet again…


(Pink?) Lemonade Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

My friends, it has been WAY too long since we’ve broken bread together! I’ve missed you! A whole lot! So I baked you a cake to make up for it.  Please can we be friends again?

Let’s talk about cake for a few minutes, shall we? I don’t know about you, but I have been sick of cupcakes since pre-2008 when they were actually popular.  Granted, I know there is a certain appeal to being able to pick and choose from 28 flavours (or is that Baskin Robbins? Sometimes I get confused), but I think there is a certain unmistakable charm of a freshly iced cake on a gorgeous cake pedastal that can’t be beat. Besides, it’s my birthday and, let’s be honest, a generic cake from the supermarket bakery just wouldn’t cut it.

Now, ya’ll know me – I’ll seldom pass up an opportunity to make something chocolately, but after making a (rather delicious) chocolate cake already earlier in the week for a special dinner party, I wanted to go on the opposite end of the flavour spectrum.  Since it’s finally Spring, I figured a lemon cake would be the perfect fit.

When I was a child, my Mom used to always make a lemon bundt cake using lemon cake mix AND lemon Jell-o.  It was delicious, but I don’t generally (ok, ever) stock either one of those ingredients.  However, I did have a can of pink lemonade concentrate in the freezer, and a few lemons hanging out in the fridge, so I knew I could create my own lemon cake without yellow #4 and partially hydrogenated soybean oil.

Won’t you join me?

Sugar, lemons, butter, lemonade concentrate, vanilla, eggs, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, milk, cream cheese, icing sugar.

Preheat your oven to 350-degrees (or 325-degrees if it’s convection), and grease and flour 2 8″ round cake pans.  I highly recommend lining the bottoms of the pans with a round of parchment paper, and greasing again.  Of course, if you’d prefer to leave your cake coming out in one piece up to chance please completely disregard every piece of advice I ever give you.

To get things started, zest 2 lemons.

If you’d like to donate to my microplane fund, please contact me individually.

Juice one of the lemons into a clear glass measuring cup, and add enough milk to make 1 1/4 cups. If you already have buttermilk in your fridge (I clearly did not), feel free to substitute that instead.

Let the (pretend) buttermilk hang out on the counter while everything else gets sorted out.

In a large bowl, beat 1 1/3 c sugar with 1 T lemon zest. This will help release some of the essential oils in the lemon zest.

Add 6T of softened butter, 1/4 c thawed lemonade concentrate, and 2 t of vanilla to the sugar and lemon zest.

Yes, you read that quantity of butter correctly.

Sorry, Paula.

Beat it! Beat it good!

Add 2 eggs + 2 egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: 2 C AP flour, 1 t baking powder, 1/2 t baking soda, 1/2 t salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the bowl alternately with the buttermilk.

When everything is properly acquainted, distribute the batter evenly between the two prepared pans.



In a short 20 minutes, the cakes should be done!

Please don’t just take my word for it though, get yourself a cake tester.  Or a fork.  Or a toothpick. Thumbs are not recommended though. Trust me.

While the cakes are cooling, let’s make some icing, mmmk?

I know lemon cakes traditionally are glazed, but I had a block of cream cheese in the fridge that has been waiting for the chance to be thrown in the game for about a month now.  I knew it was now or never.

Combine one block of cream cheese (8-oz),  2 T butter, 1 T lemon zest, 2 T thawed lemonade concentrate, and 1/2 t vanilla until smooth.

Gradually add icing sugar, cup by cup, until you reach the desired consistency and sweetness.  I added 3.5 cups total.

Let the icing chill while the cakes are cooling.

Hmmm…as I’m sure you’ve surmised by now, I had a dilemma on my hands. I couldn’t assemble the cake (too hot), and I had two lonely egg yolks hanging out on the counter.

Clearly, I had to make lemon curd.  My Mom makes awesome lemon curd (although she calls it lemon cheese…no clue why.  Last time I checked there was no cheese in it), but by this time it would have been 3:02am in Toronto where she lives and somehow I didn’t think she’d appreciate a call from me asking for a recipe.  Besides, she would have just told me to “check my disc”.

Right, Mom?!?!

So I figured out what to do all by my lonesome. It’s a hard knock life, for me.  It’s a hard knock life, for me…

Whisk together 3/4 c sugar with 2 egg yolks and 1 whole egg over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.

Add 2/3 c of lemon juice and 2T butter, and continue whisking.

After about 5 minutes, it should just lightly coat the back of a spoon.  Pour it into a separate container, and let it cool.

Such a pretty colour, no?!

When everything is sufficiently chilled, you can begin assembling the cake.

Pipe a ring of icing around one of the cakes (to keep the lemon curd contained), and fill with some of the lemon curd.  Exactly how much is up to you – I used about 3/4 of it.

Top with the other layer of cake, and ice with the rest of the cream cheese icing.  Stick the cake in the fridge and forget about it overnight.

Just kidding!

Go ahead and cut yourself a slice.  You’ve earned it.

This cake is not for those who are lemon fence-sitters.  It is unmistakably lemon – bright, tart, and sour.  I really like it, and I hope you will too.

In fact, I’d love to offer you a slice – free to the first 12 (local) people who say they’d like to try some. Come celebrate with me, ok?

Until we meet again…





Carb Lovers Unite!

They say man cannot live on bread alone, but what about woman?

Can she live on chocolate cake with peanut butter cream cheese icing?

Or chewy pretzels with sea salt?

Hmmm….what about 4-cheese butternut squash and cauliflower pasta?

No? Then surely puff pastry appetizers will do!

Ahh…coconut cake.  Just what I’ve been missing my whole life!

Check back in soon; we’ll talk about fish…or eggs…or spinach…or quinoa.

But for now, can someone please pass the peanut butter and bacon chocolate chunk cookies? I’m going through withdrawal.


See you on the StairMaster,


Strawberry And White Chocolate Stuffed Eggnog French Toast

(I hereby give myself an award for the blog post with the longest title – oy vey!)

I am not a fan of breakfast.

There – I said it. I don’t know if it’s the fact that 95% of the time I’d rather be sleeping or if I have a legitimate distaste for the traditional breakfast foods, but the idea of steel-cut oats just doesn’t get me out of bed in the morning.  Or cereal, I’ve never been a fan of cereal.  Soggy grains in milk? No thanks, I’ll pass. In the summer I’ll whip up a quick smoothie, but when I look outside and see snow that is just about as appealing as spending 3 continuous hours on the StairMaster, followed by running a marathon.  Besides, I hate feeling rushed in the morning, and if I actually make myself a “real” breakfast I tend to be more rushed than normal.  Not quite the best way to start my day, if you know what I mean.

Now brunch, on the other hand, is a completely different animal.  I can handle brunch.  In fact, I quite enjoy it!  I think brunch is the new coffee date, and I’m embracing it wholeheartedly.  I love lingering over brunch with a good friend (or 5), catching up, and not feeling any time pressure to be anywhere or do anything else.  Brunch feels special, since those types of days don’t happen super often.

As you may have picked up on by now, one of my favourite things to do is to open up the pantry and/or fridge and just start combining.  After all, it’s how I first learned how to cook and it is what comes most naturally to me.  On top of this innate desire to play, I also hate to waste food.  What can I say – I’m Scottish!

(It all makes sense now, doesn’t it?!)

Unfortunately (or is it?), I get bored pretty easily and so leftovers are often abandoned in favour of their newer, more exciting cousins.  So…when I looked out the window and saw 2″ of snow (which, by Vancouver standards, is enough to paralyze the entire city…CRAZY I know), opened up my fridge and saw eggnog that was begging for one last chance to shine before being dumped down the drain, and a hunk of french bread on the counter I knew what had to be done.

Brunch on a snow day? Yes please!

Eggnog, egg, vanilla, salt, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, strawberries, white chocolate, bread.

In a shallow dish, whisk together 3/4 c eggnog, 1 egg, 1/2 t vanilla, 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice, 1/4 t nutmeg, and a pinch of salt.

Bonus points if you can find your nutmeg in the abyss of your pantry and grate it fresh.  If you can’t…while, you’ll just have to make this 3x as penance.

Now, I’d like to provide you with a little MDM-style disclaimer: I am fully aware that it’s January, and that in January most people make resolutions to cut back on their fat and sugar consumptions.  I thought about showing you something healthy and delicious…but when I saw the snow all of my logic went out the window and I started for looking for ways to add more fat and sugar to an already-rich dish.

I’m twisted, I know.  I also know that many of you live vicariously through me, so please don’t send me hate mail.

So I thought to myself, while regular eggnog French Toast is good, why not stuff it with chocolate? So I did.  But I added strawberries too, just for good measure.

Since strawberries that are in the grocery stores taste like cardboard aren’t seasonal, I quickly pureed some frozen ones.

One of the most beautiful aspects of French Toast is that it turns out better when it’s made with stale bread.  Love that!  You could use whatever type of bread you have lying around, but I had the last of a loaf of French bread to play with. I sliced it into thick slices, and then made a pocket in each slice.  Don’t cut all the way or the filling will escape!

Put a spoonful of the strawberry puree into the pocket…

And then stuff some good-quality white chocolate in there too.

And please remember, if you wouldn’t eat the chocolate as-is, DO NOT USE IT FOR COOKING!

I’m sorry for yelling, but I feel very strongly about this.

If you had eaten the same melting wafer that I did, you would understand.

Repeat the bread-stuffing process until you run out of bread, filling, or get bored.

Dip the (stuffed) bread into the eggnog mixture, one side at a time.

And then place each slice into a hot skillet.  Not too hot though – the trick with French Toast is that you want it to brown on the exterior, but also to not taste like raw egg (nog) when you take your first bite.

After a few minutes, gently flip each piece.  Looking good!

When you’re ready to eat, dust each piece with some icing sugar.  This is brunch after all, we might as well get a little bit fancy!

Dip in the leftover strawberry puree, if you feel so inclined.

Or maple syrup.  Up to you.  This is pretty rich, but a nice change of pace from your basic French Toast.  Whatever you do, if only for today, please linger and enjoy.  If there’s one thing that I know for sure, it’s that snow day brunches are a very good thing.

Love and best dishes!


P.S. Don’t be surprised to see a mango-coconut French Toast in the future…or a blueberry-cream cheese one…or peanut butter and chocolate filled…

P.P.S.  Have more eggnog than you know what to do with? Try these scones – they’re delicious, I promise!

Peaches & Cream (aka Peach Crisp with Maple Cream Sauce)

In an ideal world, my style of cooking would rather simple: go to the market/butcher/fish monger daily, find what looks fresh, and build around it.  Naturally, I would have strong relationships with all vendors so they would save the pick of the day for me.  I think know I’m meant to be European.  Is it too late to be adopted?

Despite my dreams and best intentions, the reality is that I end up at the market about 3-4 times a week, the fish monger thinks my name is Caroline, and I have the duke it out with the best of them to get the last of the local produce. Sometimes I go with a list in hand, other times I go to wander and be creative, but I always walk out with more inspiration than I had when I got there.  I suppose it all does even out in the end.

During a quick jaunt to the market yesterday, I spotted some lovely looking peaches.  They were perfectly ripe, which meant they had to come home with me.  I picked the best 6 in the bin, gingerly placing them one by one into my basket.  The only question that remained was how to eat them?

Now, truth be told, I love me some peaches so its no hardship to have them in my fridge – especially when they’re local and in season.  I eat them plain most of the time, but I have been known carmelize them, grill them, bake with them…you name it, and I’ll probably find it delicious.   As I picked up a peach and twirled it around, I pondered all that is right in the world the final destiny of these beauties.  A while ago I had stumbled upon an idea for a peach crisp with a maple sauce, and so that became my starting point.

Won’t you join me on this delicious journey?

That would be…peaches, whipping cream, half & half, maple syrup, flour, brown sugar, white sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, oatmeal, pecans, flax seeds, corn or pancake syrup, maple extract, and salt.

I wanted the maple cream sauce to be served cold, so I made it first.  I’m glad I did.

Can you say “appetizer”? Good.

Pour 1 c of whipping cream and 1/2 c of half & half into a large saucepan (more on this in a bit).  You could use all whipping cream, but I wasn’t about to make another trip to the grocery store so I used what was in the fridge.

I don’t suggest you see how sharp your knives are when cutting butter and slice the tip of your thumb. Ouch.

Add 1/4 c of pure maple syrup and 3T of either corn or pancake syrup to the creams. Why both, I hear you ask? The pure maple syrup will give us the flavour we want, and the corn or pancake syrup will help thicken things up.  At least, that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

Give it all a stir and gently warm over medium heat.

The idea is that we want the sauce to thicken up a bit, so stir frequently until it reduces by about 1/3.

And when it boils over in your (too small) saucepan, you know you should have listened to me about making this in a large one.

Let’s just say it wasn’t only my hips that took one for the team this time.

After about 15 minutes, I got impatient the sauce was sufficiently reduced (and not only due to that lost in splatter), so I took it off the heat and added about 1t of maple extract to bump up the maple flavour even more.

Get yourself a straw and drink up! I mean…transfer the sauce to a bowl and let it chill in the fridge while the crisp bakes.

Normally when I make crisps, I just mix a few spoonfuls of sugar, flour, and oats together, and then add enough butter to make it crumbly.  I thought I’d measure though, so here goes nothing:

You’re looking at 1/2 c AP flour, 1/2 c whole-wheat flour, 1/2 c brown sugar, 1/2 c white sugar, 1/2 c of pecans (chopped), 1 c of oatmeal, and 1/4 c of flax seed.  Oh, and a dash of salt I think.

Give it a stir, and add 1 stick (or 1/2 c) of cold butter.  Sometimes I grate my butter in, but this time I mixed it in by hand until it was crumbly.

Truthfully, this could have probably used a tad more butter but I was too lazy to add more.

No, I’m not sure what’s gotten into me either.

Turns out that by measuring I made way too much topping.  It wasn’t in vain though, because now I have a full sandwich-size Ziploc bag of topping in the fridge waiting for me next time I need a dessert in a hurry.  What a problem to have!

Next, the peaches  – they are somewhat important in a peach crisp after all.

Peel 6 peaches (or not…just remove the stickers first) and remove the pits.  Some people suggest dropping the peaches in boiling water and then plunging them in ice cold water to remove the peel, but I’ve always found that to be substantially more work than just using my regular vegetable peeler.  I think my next blog should be called the lazy gourmet.  Except I’m not really all that gourmet.

There goes that idea.

Cut the peaches into chunks, and toss them with 2T of pure maple syrup, 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/2 t nutmeg, and a dash of salt.  If you’re feeling particularly rebellious, go ahead and add the zest and juice of 1/2 lemon to brighten things up.  However, if you forget like me, it will still be good.

Give the peaches a stir, and dump them into a greased 8 x 8″ pan.

Cover with about 1/2 of the topping.

Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Uncover the pan (and rotate if you’re not using a convection oven) and bake for another 25 minutes until the top is lightly browned and the juices are bubbly.

Let the crisp cool for a few minutes while you do a little bit of quality control with the maple cream sauce.

I had to taste it twice to be sure I wouldn’t poison anyone who consumed the crisp.

It passed. Barely.

With that out-of-the-way, it was time to eat.  FINALLY!!!

Pour some of the sauce into your dish so that the peaches feel loved, dish up the crisp, and then top with a drizzle more of sauce.  And some mint, if you’re feeling fancy.

I won’t judge you if you’re not though.

I will judge you if you don’t make this peach crisp – its delicious and decadent and fabulous on a rainy (dare I say it?) late summer evening.  The sauce really is what makes it, so please don’t skip this step…it’s worth every last calorie.

Peaches & Cream has never been better, my friends!  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find myself a straw…

Glutton for Punishment

Look what magically appears when I decide to clean out my fridge:

Meet you in therapy,



Peanut Butter Bars

Of all of the beautiful partnerships in the world, could there be anything more perfect than peanut butter and chocolate?  I think not!  As in any good relationship, both chocolate and peanut butter can stand firmly on their own merits, but when put together, true magic happens.   Whether its freshly ground dark chocolate peanut butter at Whole Foods, a grilled peanut butter and chocolate sandwich, or Moose Tracks ice cream on a hot summer day, I love me some chocolate and peanut butter in just about any form!

Of course, no conversation regarding peanut butter and chocolate is compete without paying homage to good ol’ Reese’s.  If I don’t feel like baking (yes, it happens), I seek out alternative sources to fulfill my cravings. I have never been disappointed when I rip into that tell-tale orange wrapper and sink my teeth into that creamy peanut butter filling that is tenderly enclosed in rich milk chocolate…but I have been too lazy to go to the store to buy one when nothing else will satisfy.  Since I know that a craving as strong as this one just doesn’t disappear on its own, I did what any good sugar addict Modern Day Martha would do: I figured out how to make them myself, only in bar form because its easier and that means less time in between construction and consumption.

Step #1: Measure out 1 c each of graham cracker crumbs and icing sugar – artwork optional.

Step #2: Melt 1/2 c butter and 1/2 c peanut butter, and take the blurriest picture known to blog readers on the wrong camera setting.

Step 3: Mix them together.  I feel like a yenta – I’m making connections between soul mates!

Step #4: Press the mixture into a pan that’s been lined with parchment paper, unless you enjoy making your life more complicated than necessary.

Step #5: Melt some chocolate chips (I used about a cup of semi-sweet, but you could use milk chocolate if you want to) and a few tablespoons of peanut butter in the same pan that you melted the butter and peanut butter in earlier. Once again, only wash/use a new pan if you enjoy delaying the amount of time it will be until you can eat a bar. Or five.

Step #6: Taste a bit of the chocolate for quality control purposes, and then spread it on top of the bars.

Step #7: Stick the whole pan in your fridge, and forget about it for 2 days.

HA! You didn’t believe me on that last step, did you?!?!

Or…once they’ve chilled and the chocolate has hardened, let the bars sit on the counter for about 30 minutes before attempting to cut. I know, it’s weird to tell you to put them in the fridge so the chocolate hardens and then take them out of the fridge so its soft again, but you’re just going to have to trust me.  I know I’m difficult to deal with sometimes, but trust is the foundation for any good relationship.

Step #8: Eat as many as you can handle in a 24-hr period, and then feed the rest to your friends and co-workers once you realize that you shouldn’t be left alone with something this delicious.  Hey, its either their diets being sabotaged or mine!

Step #9: Fall in love all over again.