APPLE PEAR CRUMBLE February 22, 2012

Good grief has it really been THAT long???  Well, I guess it has, and I’m confident with my excuse: new motherhood.  I welcomed the best thing EVER into my life last year and it’s been one hellova rollercoasster ride since.  Poopy diapers and tantrums aside, I still love love love to cook and bake.  So that’s that.

Here’s a great recipe for one of my autumnal faves … Apple Crumble.  This version is modified to be GLUTEN FREE that has a slightly almond twist and incorporates pears as well.  It’s a quick and elegant way to use up any apples or pears you just know will go if you don’t use them soon, and is super easy to prep.  Now that time is of the essence (crazy toddler running around), making food that is healthy AND ready F-A-S-T is more important than ever.



1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup almond flour (or oats)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger (this is optional)
3 tbsp butter (at room temp)


3 tbsp almond flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. ground ginger (this is optional)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 pounds apples (about 4 medium sized)
1 1/2 pounds pears (about 4 medium sized)
1/2 cup dried cranberries or craisins or raisins
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp almond or vanilla extract


1) Grease an 8″ or a 9″ square baking dish

2) Peel, core, and slice apples and pears.


* In a medium bowl, combine sliced almonds, flour, sugar, cinnamon and ginger

* Add butter to mixture, and combine ingredients and butter until mixture resembles loose crumbs (best to use your fingers!)


* In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, cinnamon and ginger, then add apples and pears, cranberries, lemon juice and almond extract.

* Mix fruit with the dry ingredients to coat, being careful not to break up the fruit (again – best to gently use your fingers!)

3) Transfer FILLING (fruit mixture) to the baking dish, and sprinkle TOPPING mixture evenly over top.

4) Bake at 375° F for approx 30-35 min or until topping is starting to turn golden brown, and fruit juices bubble.

5) Cool slightly before serving


– you can serve with whipped cream or ice cream

– can be served warm or cold


The Weekly Soup: Tomato Dill December 23, 2009

I went a little over zealous last week at the grocers with a sale of cherry tomatoes.  I am a sucker for a sale and when these little gems were 2 pints for $3 I just had to get some (okay more than some).  I then found myself with too many little red rubies staring at me every time I hit the kitchen. There was only so many Greek Salads I could eat in a week, so I decided to soup it.  I forgot how nicely dill and tomato go together.  This is a fresh style soup – and it can be served smooth or rustic – your choice.  Good for any time of year!!  I loved this with super crusty bread and tasted incredible the next day too.  I assume it would freeze pretty well, but mine didn’t make it that far. 



1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 TBSP canola or olive oil

1 tsp butter

2 medium tomatoes, sliced (or 1 pint of cherry tomatoes)

1 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt

Pepper to taste

1/3 cup tomato paste

2 TBSP (all-purpose) flour

1 1/4 cups cold water, divided

1/3 cup cream

1 tsp minced fresh dill (or 1/2 tsp dried)



1) In a small saucepan, cook onion and garlic in oil and/or butter over low heat until translucent.

2) Add tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper, and cook over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, then remove from heat then stir in tomato paste.

3) In a separate small bowl, combine flour and 1/2 cup of water until smooth, stir into tomato mixture, then gradually stir in remaining water until smooth (you can add more water if you want a thinner consistency).

4) Return saucepan to heat and bring to a boil, then continue to cook and stir for 2-3 minutes longer.

5) Place a sieve over a large bowl, pour soup into sieve, and press with the back of a large spoon to remove tomato seeds and skin.  NOTE – you can skip this step if you want a more rustic or chunky soup.

6) Return puree to pan and add cream and dill, and cook over low heat just until heated through (do not boil!!!!!!!).

7) Serve HOT!


Saucy Polenta Fingers December 10, 2009

After feeling like I hit a culinary wall of non-creativity (why is it that we always go back to the same old same old after a while??), I went a huntin’ in the great abbyss that is my pantry.  My prey?  Turned out to be a big fat zippy filled with cornmeal.  Enter… inspiration!  I’ve made both the store bought and homemade kinds before, but I wanted to jazz this lil diddy up, so I made this into fingers.  Cooled ’em, cute ’em, grilled ’em, then smothered ’em in sauce.  Outcome?  A brilliantly cheap, quick, hearty and luscious winter-time meal.  Bonus was the totally gluten-free day I had!  Woot!



For the polenta –

4 cups water

3 1/2 cups of milk

2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups cornmeal

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tbsp butter (I used unsalted)

For the sauce –

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and chopped into 1 inch pieces

2 cups diced canned tomatoes

1 tsp EACH dried parsley and dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste



1. Bring water and milk to a boil in a medium pot, then turn down to a simmer – watching closely so you don’t burn the milk.

2. Add cornmeal  into pot in a slow stream, stirring, then add dried basil and salt, and continuing to whisk for about 2-3 minutes.

3. Continue to simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes more – polenta will be gloppy and stiff, but try to keep stirring so the bottom does not burn, then remove from heat.

4. Mix in Parmesan cheese and butter, then plop into a greased 9×11 baking dish and cool for at least 30 minutes until completely solid.

5. While polenta is solidifying, in a large skillet heat oil over medium heat, and saute onions until translucent, then add in garlic and cook until garlic is fragrant and slighly browned (about 1-2 minute).

6. Add canned tomatoes and dried spices (and salt and pepper to taste), simmer for 5-7 minutes, then add in diced green beans and cook until tender – about another 5 min (simmer sauce on low until ready to use).

7.  Slice soild polenta into fingers, remove fro baking dish, and grill in a grill pan until heated and slightly browned (you could also broil in the oven, turning so all sides are browned).

8. Place grilled polenta fingers on a plate, and cover with sauce – sprinkle with parmessean and serve HOT!


Bestest Brownies November 28, 2009

Filed under: My bakery — s mcdowall @ 4:40 am
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It’s been a long long week and after a round of gin and tonics (okay maybe more than 1 round), all I could think of to ease the “pain” was something sweet, chocolately and oooey gooey.  It’s hard for someone like me to just stroll on into a corner store and pick up a bar for a buck … almost 100% of the commercial brands of chocolate bars have soy lecithin in them so it’s a no go for me.  For me then, it’s always turn on oven, whip up a storm, bake, be patient, and hours later enjoy!.  With that … I give you one of the easiest craving satisfyers I know and love … the chocoholics brownie.  Hi, my name is Healthyhag and I am an addict.



1/2 cup cold butter, cut into bits

150g rams (about 1/2 cup) dark chocolate, broken into bits

2 cups white sugar

4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup flour

1/4 tsp salt



1) Heat the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over LOW heat until completely melted.

2) Let chocolate/butter mixture cool for 10 minutes, and then preheat oven to 350F.

3) Mix sugar, eggs and vanilla together until fluffy.

4) Add in flour and salt to bowl and combine then mix in cooled chocolate/butter mix and blend well.

5) Pour into 11 x 8 greased baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes (do NOT over bake!!!).

6) Cool brownies for at least 30 minutes, then cut into squares and enjoy!


The Weekly Soup – Leek and Cauliflower November 2, 2009

It dawned on me this weekend that I make home-made soup at least twice a month, so I thought seeing as the weather is turning why not make this into a heart-warming weekly affair!  I do love a theme.  So, I officially welcome you to the very first edition of the Weekly Soup.  Nice and timely right at the beginning of November.  It’s brisk but lovely here in Canadaland where I live, and soup seems to make it all the better.


Seeing as leeks just happened to land in my lap (a wee gifty from the mom-in-law), I set out yesterday to make something soothing and oniony.  I intended on making potato leek soup, but with nary a spud in sight, I swapped in that other tasty white veg: cauliflower.  The result?  A gorgeous smooth and savory soup that is actually one of the best I’ve had in ages.  It holds up pretty well to a quick zap to re-heat and would even do well served cold in the summer as a vichyssoise. Versatile, easy and spectacularly tasty?  SOLD!



1 TBSP butter

½ small onion, finely chopped

1 TBSP olive oil

2 leeks, chopped and washed of all grit (TIP: soak the chopped leek in cold water, drain a repeat a few times to ensure all the dirt is gone)

½ large head of cauliflower, chopped

3 cups stock (your choice – as long as it’s rich and good!)

1 cup boiling water (you may use more or less, depending on the thickness you desire)

1 ½ tsp sea or kosher salt (if your stock is super salty, use less)

½ cup 10% table cream

1/3 cup extra old white cheddar, grated (you could use any old hard cheese, but this is my FAVE!)

Pepper to taste



1)      Bring a large pot to medium heat and sauté the onion in the butter and olive oil until just browned.

2)      Add into pot the leek and cauliflower, and sauté until browned and softened (about 5-10 min).

3)      Pour stock, water and salt into pot, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 min (or until veg are very tender).

4)      Turn off heat and allow soup to cool slightly, then add in cream.

5)      Pour all contents into a blender, and blend until smooth (you can add in extra liquid if it’s too thick).

6)      Place puréed soup back in pot, add in grated cheese and re-heat slightly (you do not want to burn this soup, so be careful!).

7)      Serve warm with zesty crackers or crusty bread – even top with plain yogurt or sour cream and a sprinkling of freshly chopped chives!!  Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.



The Empire (Strikes) Biscuits October 23, 2009

Okay, so my peeps aren’t known for their dessert making skills, but if there is one thing sweet that the Brits do get right, it’s the Empire Biscuit.  It’s a far cry from all the entrails that end up in haggis – don’t even get me started on that – with buttery shortbreads sandwiched together with sweet jam and topped with a dab of white icing.  These remind me so much of Christmas and family, and are a perfect to treat to serve after dinner or with afternoon tea, or to wrap up as gifts for your favourite friends.  I can’t WAIT for December.




3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (must be all-purpose – I’ve tried whole wheat and it’s not nice)

1/2 cup cornstarch

1 tsp salt

2 cups unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups icing sugar

1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam


1 cup icing sugar (approx)

1 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp

4 1/2 tsp milk

1/4 cup maraschino cherries, dried and cut into quarters (you could use candied ones too if you want)



1)  Preheat oven to 350°F, and in a bowl combine flour, cornstarch and salt.

2)  Combine butter and sugar in a separate large bowl, cream together until smooth, then increasingly beat in flour mixture.

3)  Roll 1 tbsp dough at a time into a small ball, then flatten with your fingers until about 1/4″ thick, and place 1/2″ apart onto buttered or lined baking sheets.

4)  Bake cookies for 12 min, or until firm to the touch (watch out not to overcook or burn!).

5)  Remove from oven once done and cool on wire racks.

6)  Once completely cooled, spread 1/2 tsp jam on half the cookies, then top with remaining cookies.

7) For the glaze, beat together icing sugar, butter and milk in a small bowl, adding a little more icing sugar if necessary to make a spreadable paste.

8] Spread icing over cookies, then top each with a small piece of cherry.

9) IMPORTANT: Let sit for 30 minutes before serving, so the biscuits can set.



Coconut Layer Cake June 2, 2009

Filed under: My bakery — s mcdowall @ 7:25 pm
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I made this cake for my Mom’s birthday recently, and it was a big hit.  Bear in mind, the woman is one tough cookie to please culinarily wise, so the fact that it went over so well is a pretty good indicator of the greatness of this cake!  If you love coconut like I do, then this will be a little slice of heaven for you.  WARNING: hard to say ‘NO’ to seconds.



2 1/4 cups cake flour or plain flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

8 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 tsp coconut or vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups milk (I used 1/2 dairy and 1/2 rice)

1/2 cup egg whites (it’s about 3-4 large eggs, separated)


Buttery-coconut filling and icing:

 1 cup powdered sugar

 approx 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

 approx. 1/2 cup coconut milk

 For garnish: sweetened shredded coconut




1. Grease two 8″ round cake pans and preheat the oven to 350F, then sift cake flour, baking powder, and salt onto a plate.

 2. Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy, and then add in the extract.

 3. In a separate bowl, whisk milk and egg whites.

4. Add 1/3 of flour mixture to butter, mix until smooth.

5. Add in 1/2 egg white mixture and then add in 1/3 of the flour mixture – beat well!

6. Add in remaining liquid and flour mix, and combine until well incorporated (you may want to use a hand beater for this).

7. Divide batter between 2 cake pans and bake for 30-35 min, or until done.

8. Cool cake in pans for about 5 min and then cool on the racks. 


*To make filling/icing:

1) Mix room-temp butter with 1 TBSP of coconut milk and a fewe tsp of icing sugar and combine well.

2) Continue adding icing sugar, until more liquid is needed (it’ll get really clumpy).  Add in a little coconut milk and butter at a time, interspersing with icing sugar, until you get the desired consistency (should be perfect for spreading). 


*To layer the cake:

1) Once completely cooled, slice each layer of the cake horizontally into half into 4 slices – place one layer on a cake platter.

2) Spread with 1/4 of icing on it – then top with another layer of cake and repeat.

3) Place the last layer on top and spread the top and sides of the cake with the remaining icing. NOTE – I WAS IN A RUSH, SO THIS TIME I SKIPPED 4 LAYERS, AND JUST DID 2.

4) Sprinkle and press sweetened coconut all over the outside of the cake.

5) Chill cake for 1-2 hrs to set icing and coconut – then serve at room temperature (it will keep nicely in fridge for a few days as well).