Crisp Toffee Pecan Bars

on white platesWhen it comes to social media and tech savviness, I must admit I’m not exactly current. I have a twitter account with about 40 followers, but I’m confused about where I’m supposed to be leading them.  I do post on Instagram, but not very frequently. I check the spelling and punctuation of every text I send, which makes me a very slow texter. My kids usually abandon our text chats within the first few messages and just pick up the phone and call me because I am so frustratingly slow, compared to their lightening fast thumbs.

I try to keep up with all the cool kids and know the meaning of many internet acronyms. One meme that has been picking up steam as usage of social media skyrockets is FOMO. For the uninitiated, FOMO stands for fear of missing out. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.” It’s that little pang of envy you feel when you’re looking at vacation photos, amazing restaurant meals or parties of friends and family that you weren’t invited to.

But it looks like FOMO may be taking a back seat to JOMO – joy of missing out. According to The Huffington Post, “the term is a rebellion against saying yes to everything, and is about giving yourself the space to think and experience things without freaking out about what you ‘should’ be doing instead.”

As a proud introvert, I wholeheartedly embrace JOMO! Let’s hear it for staying home, binge watching Netflix and snacking on Crisp Toffee Pecan Bars.On black slab 2I discovered these cookies on The New York Times Cooking website. The dough is baked in a cast iron pan. Baking in cast iron allows for a degree of deep caramelization that just can’t be achieved on a regular baking sheet. If you don’t already have a cast iron pan, maybe this will convince you to invest in one.

Creator Charlotte Druckman gives you the option of adding  nuts or chocolate to the dough. Inspired by one of my favourite cookies, Skor Bars, I added pecans, chocolate and Skor bits!ingredientsPlace your empty cast iron pan in the oven while you make the dough.making doughGrease the hot pan very carefully with butter. buttering cast iron panPress dough into hot pan. Use the bottom of a measuring cup so you don’t burn yourself. pressing dough into panScore dough into wedges and let cookies completely cool in pan before removing.scoring warm barsThe edges will be deeply browned and crispy while the center is still nice and chewy. Pecans and skor bits contribute great crunch and chocolate is always welcome. A glass of milk might just be the best accompaniment to your JOMO experience.with a glass of milk

Click here to print recipe for Crisp Toffee Pecan Bars.

On black slab 1

One bar

Grilled Chicken and Nectarine Skewers with Peanut Coconut Sauce

on blue platterSomehow, when you put dinner on a skewer it just seems more festive. Local peach and nectarine season is right around the corner, so bookmark this recipe and celebrate the season.

The combination of peanut butter and coconut milk could skew a bit sweet and heavy, but lime juice and jalapeño provide the perfect balance. Cilantro adds a fresh-grassy herbal note, but  cilantro haters could certainly substitute Italian parsley. The marinade also includes Greek yogurt. If you keep kosher or just want a dairy-free marinade, I have discovered a great yogurt alternative – So Delicious Dairy-Free Unsweetened Coconut Yogurt. It provides the tanginess of yogurt without the dairy. Surprisingly, it does not taste overwhelmingly of coconut. peanut coconut sauceI used boneless skinless chicken thighs, as they are almost impossible to overcook. Don’t forget to soak the wooden skewers so they don’t burn. making skewersgrillingFor a casual dinner, wrap some warm pita around the skewer, pull the wooden stick out and to make a wrap. Serve extra sauce, lime, chopped peanuts and cilantro on the side. skewers on pita

Click here to print recipe for Grilled Chicken and Nectarine Skewers with Coconut –Peanut Sauce.

2 skewers

 

Cauliflower Chicken Fried “Rice”

bowl of riceCauliflower is the darling of the vegetable world this year. It is her chameleon-like qualities that make her such a popular girl. Sliced into slabs and roasted as “steak“, shaved thinly and served raw as slaw, boiled and mashed and served in “stuffed potatoes“, roasted whole so it resembles a “brain”, cauliflower crust pizza, and now, masquerading as fried rice.

Is this taking carb avoidance too far? I love fried rice, and had my doubts that cauliflower could step up to the plate and replace the rice in this classic dish. But Google “Cauliflower Fried Rice” and no fewer than 566,000 results pop up. I needed to see what all the fuss was about. IngredientsMaking the cauliflower “rice” couldn’t be simpler. Pulse cauliflower florets in the food processor, about 10 times and you’re done. You could also grate the cauliflower on the large holes of a box grater. Cauliflower beforeCauliflower after I used this recipe from chatelaine.com and adapted it slightly. Get all your ingredients chopped and measured before you start cooking, because this comes together quickly once you start the actual cooking.mise en placecookingIt genuinely looks like fried rice and it tastes delicious. I was worried that the flavour of the cauliflower would be overpowering, but with all the other ingredients, it wasn’t. Soy sauce and hoisin work together to add authenticity. While you know you’re not eating rice, it is still hits the spot. You can have a big bowl and feel satisfyingly full and healthy. I will be making this again very soon!rice for 3

Click here to print recipe for Cauliflower Chicken Fried Rice.

Big bowl of rice 2

Strawberry Raspberry Cobbler

Serving cobblerBaskets of local strawberries are overflowing at Farmers Markets all over Ontario this month. I usually exercise no restraint and buy way more than we can possibly eat. Then, I’m left with a fridge full of almost rotting fruit. I blame my mother for this. I grew up in a house where we had a storage room filled with bulging shelves because she never want to run out of anything. We had enough extra toilet paper, KD and canned white tuna (packed in water) to survive for a year without ever having to leave the house.
strawberries and raspberriesBut this week, I showed great self-control and deliberately bought just one quart, exactly what we need for our morning yogurt, berries and double coconut granola. However, my son’s room-mate Polly arrived for dinner on Friday night, with a 3-quart basket of plump local strawberries. So sweet! We ate strawberries with every meal that weekend, but still had a quart of soft berries left over on Sunday night.

I was about to freeze the extra berries when my husband asked, “why don’t you just bake me a fruit crisp instead?” Why not indeed? Since I have already blogged about my favourite crisp recipe, I wanted to try something new. Maybe a crumble, a pan-dowdy, a grunt, a slump, a buckle, a Betty, a sonker or a cobbler.

I decided to turn them into a cobbler. I had never made one before and it couldn’t be easier. While a crisp involves stopping of flour, butter, sugar, oats and sometimes nuts, a cobbler is basically a biscuit dough that gets dropped into clumps on top of the fruit and is then baked. Large cobblestone-like nuggets of crunchy dough to soak up all that warm sweet juicy fruit. Are you with me?

I decided on a mix of strawberries and raspberries. Mix the fruit with just a bit of sugar and some thickener. I like Minit Tapioca better than flour or cornstarch. Let the berries, sugar and tapioca sit for about 15 minutes so that the tapioca can dissolve. berries, sugar and tapiocaThe fruit gets a head start in the oven while you prepare the biscuit dough. The original recipe calls for buttermilk, but I never have buttermilk when I need it. I just mixed some milk with a bit of lemon juice to sour it and made my own buttermilk. Flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, melted butter and buttermilk are quickly mixed together for form a dough. The cornmeal adds a satisfying little crunch to the dough.
Ready to make cobbler doughDivide the dough into 8 pieces and drop the clumps onto the hot cobbler. Top with cinnamon sugar and bake for another 20 minutes.
topping fruit with cobbler doughShow some restraint and wait about 20 minutes before you dig in.Just baked 1No one will complain if you add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some softly whipped cream on the side. Any leftover keeps very well for a second day. Keep cobbler uncovered on the counter so the biscuits stay crunchy. You can warm it up in a 350°F oven for a few minutes if you like.With whipped cream and tea 1 625 sq

Click here to print recipe for Strawberry Raspberry Cobbler.

half eaten

A Toast to Summer: Honey Roasted Tomatoes on Whipped Feta Toasts

3 toasts
If I’m being completely honest, I really only have myself to blame. It all started with a trip to the Amalfi Coast in Italy in 2011. It was there I first discovered the joys of Prosecco and “Aperitivo.” The literal translation is an alcoholic beverage that is consumed prior to a meal with the intention of stimulating the appetite. It almost always involves a few nibbles to have along with your drink, and I’m not talking about a “happy hour” dish of peanuts.

Depending on your location in Italy, the snacks change. In the south it is typically freshly roasted warm salted almonds, a bowl of spicy marinated olives, home made potato chips, or little squares of pizza.

Several years later we visited Umbria in Northern Italy. Aperitivo here meant little crostini topped with pecorino cheese and drizzled with local wildflower honey, suppli (deep fried breaded rice balls stuffed with cheese) and all sorts of amazing charcuterie.

I decided to adopt Aperitivo hour at our cottage. It was recieved quite well by all our visiting friends and family. (What a shock, I know!) It’s gotten to the point that around 6 pm, my husband, children, siblings and friends will ask, “What are we having for aperitivo tonight?” I have conditioned them to expect a little snack along with pre-dinner drinks. Like I said, all my own fault! Truthfully, I love aperitivo hour. Everyone comes together on the back deck, cell phones are put away into pockets and we chat.

I am always looking for interesting snacks that can be put together without too much fuss or bother. A  few months ago, my sister Bo sent me a recipe for whipped feta. I filed it away, thinking it would be perfect, spread on some crusty bread for aperitivo hour.

I decided to top the whipped feta with roasted tomatoes. Little grape or cherry tomatoes get tossed with garlic, olive oil, honey and thyme.Drizzling tomatoes with honey30 minutes in a hot oven until they are slightly shrivelled and bubbly. You can roast the tomatoes early in the day and just leave them out on the counter until you need them. roasted tomatoesThe whipped feta dip was a recipe from Ina Garten. I adapted her recipe, cut back on the feta and added some whole milk ricotta to the mix. It love the lightness it added to the spread. This can also be made in the morning. Just wrap well and chill until serving time.Making whipped Feta-RicottaStart with some really good bread. A baguette or ciabatta loaf are perfect for this. Good quality bread will have big holes in it like this. I bought a ciabatta lunga from Ace Bakery. Ciabatta LungoIn bread freak lingo, these big holes are known as “an open crumb structure.” They are achieved by a long slow cold fermentation, gentle handling so you don’t deflate all the built up gas and  a high hydration dough.

I like to split the loaf horizontally, toast it gently on a grill or in the oven, and then cut it into serving size pieces before topping them.5 toasts2 toasts with prosecco

Click here to print recipe for Honey Roasted Tomato and Whipped Feta Toasts.

1 toast with a bite taken