Fig, Walnut & Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

This is a classed-up version of my  Big and Chewy Oatmeal Cookies. The chopped up figs practically melt into these cookies as they bake, creating a sticky sweetness that pairs beautifully with the smoky molasses. The addition of dark chocolate adds even more sophistication to an otherwise humble cookie, while the walnuts add texture and crunch.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 1/2 cups oats
  • 1 cup dried figs, chopped
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chunks or chips

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and spray baking sheets with non-stick spray.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, corn starch and salt.
  3. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar.
  4. Add the eggs, vanilla and molasses. Mix until combined.
  5. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the flour mixture. Beat until fully incorporated.
  6. Add the oats, figs, walnuts and chocolate.
  7. Roll generous 1/4 cup measures of dough into balls (you can use a medium- sized ice cream scoop for this.) Place two inches apart on prepared baking sheets. You can press a few chocolate chunks into the tops of the cookies before baking — it makes them look prettier.
  8. Bake for 18-20 minutes.

*Yield: Approximately 18 large cookies

 

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Triple Berry Coffee Cake

I always wondered why coffee cake was called coffee cake when there isn’t any actual coffee in it. After some research (i.e. I googled it), I learned that it’s because coffee cake is meant to be eaten with coffee. Makes sense. This coffee cake is made with a luscious berry filling and topped with a cinnamon-almond streusel. Perfect with your afternoon coffee…or you can eat it without coffee.  Then it would just be a really delicious cake.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream or plain Greek yoghurt

Berry filling:

  • 2 cups mixed berries (I used strawberries, raspberries and wild blueberries)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Streusel topping:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds

Glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-4 tbsp milk

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9 inch tube pan with non-stick spray.
  2. Make the filling: in a bowl, stir together the berries, sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
  4. Make the streusel: In a small bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and almonds.  Using a pastry cutter — or your fingertips — cut in the butter into the mix until it resembles large, coarse crumbs.  Set aside.
  5. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.
  6. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until fully incorporated.
  7. Next, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the sour cream.  Mix until just combined.
  8. Spoon half the batter into the prepared pan.
  9. Spoon the berry mixture evenly on top of the batter.
  10. Spoon the remaining batter on top of the berries in an even layer, making sure the berries are entirely covered.
  11. Sprinkle the streusel over the top of the batter.
  12. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in centre of cake comes out clean. Cool cake completely.
  13. To make glaze, in a small bowl whisk together the powdered sugar and milk.  Drizzle over cooled cake.

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Tomato, Basil & Goat Cheese Strata

It’s tomato season, and when you’ve had your fill of tomato salad, this recipe is a great way to use cherry tomatoes. I love casseroles like this one because they can be made in advance, they’re easy to prepare and they can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. This is a summer version of my Spinach and Ham Strata. I like to use goat cheese in this recipe, but it’s also very tasty with feta cheese or mozzarella.

Ingredients:

  • 9 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • 8 -10 slices of your favourite crusty bread, cubed (about 8 cups)

Method:

  1. Generously grease an 8×11 inch baking dish with olive oil.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and romano cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Spread 1/3 of the cubed bread into the prepared pan. Layer 1/3 of the tomatoes over the bread. Sprinkle 1/3 of the goat cheese and basil over the tomatoes. Repeat layers two more times.
  4. Pour the egg mixture over the layered ingredients.
  5. Cover the casserole and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.
  6. Remove casserole from fridge a half hour before baking. Preheat oven to 350F. Bake  casserole, uncovered, for 45-55 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

 

 


Zucchini & Carrot Muffins

Here’s another delicious way to use up all those zucchini growing in your gardens this summer.  This hearty breakfast muffin is packed with grated zucchini, carrots and lots of chopped pecans for added texture. I like to use olive oil in this recipe because it adds a rich, fruity flavour — but you can easily substitute any other vegetable oil. What I also love about this recipe is that these muffins bake up with a nice, crusty top. This is also a muffin that freezes very well, so perfect for school day breakfasts (which, let’s face it, are just around the corner.) How is the summer slipping by so fast?

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup ground flax seeds
  • 2 large carrots, grated (1 packed cup)
  • 2 medium zucchini, grated (1 packed cup)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Grease a muffin tin or line with 12 muffin cups.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt, baking powder, flax seeds and pecans.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil and vanilla.
  4. Add the grated carrots and zucchini to the egg mixture.  Stir to combine.
  5.  Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.The batter will be very thick.
  6. Spoon the batter evenly into the 12 muffin cups.  Bake for 10 minutes.
    Lower oven temperature to 350F and bake for an additional 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.

*Yield: 12 large muffins


Lavender Sugar Cookies

I recently spent an afternoon visiting some beautiful lavender fields in St. Eustache, just north of Montreal. It was spectacular to see the rolling waves of lavender, in varying shades of purple and blue, as far as the eye could see. I felt as though I had stepped into a Claude Monet painting — or something fancy and French like that. It was definitely inspiring. Lavender is often used in baking; it lends a floral flavour to sweets that is actually quite nice. It’s important to use sparingly, however, or you risk having your sweets taste like soap. I bought a bag of dried culinary lavender during my visit, and decided to add some to my favourite sugar cookie recipe. The result is a soft, chewy cookie with a delicate lavender flavour. These taste great with a cup of tea.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup lavender sugar**
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sugar, for rolling

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease baking sheets with non-stick spray.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt.
  3. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and lavender sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs and mix until combined. Add vanilla.
  5. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add in the dry ingredients. Mix until combined.
  6. Use a medium-sized ice cream scoop to form the cookie dough into balls.
  7. Roll the balls in sugar. For an extra touch of flavour and colour, you can add a teaspoon of dried culinary lavender to the sugar before rolling the cookies into it.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes.

*Yield: Approximately 16 large cookies.

**To make lavender sugar combine 1 cup granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons of dried culinary lavender in a food processor or blender. Pulse until the lavender is evenly dispersed into the sugar. 

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Lavender fields in St. Eustache, Quebec.

 


Chocolate Chip Zucchini Brownies

This brownie recipe was born after I planted way too many zucchini plants in my tiny backyard garden. My dad warned me not to plant more than two; they’ll get very big, he said. I planted four. They seemed innocent enough until about mid-July when they turned into rampant monster plants that were taking over my garden and yielding dozens of zucchini per plant. Lesson learned. I discovered that zucchini works in everything from meatballs to these delicious brownies. These are cake-like, dense brownies loaded with milk chocolate chips. It’s important not to over-bake these to ensure they retain the ooey-gooey goodness we all love about brownies.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 cup chocolate chips + more for sprinkling

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease an 8×12 brownie pan with nonstick spray.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the vegetable oil, eggs, sugar and vanilla.
  4. Add the liquid ingredients and the grated zucchini to the dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined.
  5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan and sprinkle a few chocolate chips on top of the batter.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes. The middle of the baked brownies should be slightly soft.  Do not overbake!
  8. Allow brownies to cool for about 20 minutes before slicing.

Our Favourite Zucchini Bread

I have a confession to make… I really don’t like zucchini. I’ve always found them to be pretty bland and watery.  But that’s exactly what makes zucchini the perfect addition to baked goods. This is a veggie that will melt right into anything you bake, adding some much-needed moisture to breads and brownies, without adding any weird, vegetable-y flavour to your sweets. Zucchini is also packed with vitamins and plenty of fiber. I like to use both green and yellow zucchini in this recipe because it adds a pretty pop of colour.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 medium yellow zucchini, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium green zucchini, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F and grease two 8×4 loaf pans with non-stick spray.
  2. In a bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, oil and sugars.
  4. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture and mix until just combined.
  5. Stir in the grated zucchini and pistachios.
  6. Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in centre of loaf comes out clean. Cool for about 20 minutes before removing from pan. This zucchini bread freezes extremely well and will keep for several months in the freezer.

*Yield: Two 8×4 loaves

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Zucchini from my father’s garden.