Monthly Archives: December 2015

listen to this

I got hooked on the podcast Serial last fall. My millennial son told me about it which seemed intriguing since you just listen to a podcast. No graphics, nothing fancy, just listening, not something that I thought would appeal to millennials…who knew?!

Season 1 of Serial, was produced by public radio’s “This American Life,” and re-examines the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, a Maryland teenager, that resulted in the conviction of Adnan Syed, her former boyfriend.  It is compelling listening, so much so that I often found myself sitting in the car at my destination just so I could finish an episode.

The same millennial son just informed me that Season Two of Serial is available. It is about Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier who had been a prisoner of the Taliban for nearly five years. I just downloaded it and can’t wait to get in the car tomorrow and start listening. I like the car for the total immersion it provides me – no distractions (other than the other cars on the road!) just focused listening.

Another podcast that has got my attention lately is Happier with Gretchen Rubin. A quick, smart production about habits and happiness done by two sisters.

Tiny Desk Concerts are fun to have on your playlist. Described on the NPR website as intimate video performances, recorded live at the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen.

Once you get started, you keep finding more. That same millennial son sent me a link to a Huffington Post list of Great Podcasts for Road Trips and Long Weekend Traffic Jams. Take a look and see what interests you. Let us know what you are listening to!





holiday baking

Something chocolate, something with ginger, something rich and buttery and something with fruit. That’s my rule of thumb for holiday baking!

Apricot squares fit the last category, but wait – they are also rich and buttery…oh well, it’s the holidays and I only make them once a year, or maybe twice. They are displayed on a beautiful plate made by my ceramics teacher Kristen Kieffer.

Nanaimo Bars hit the spot for chocolate and sweet. I only make these in December. I have a love/hate relationship with Nanaimo bars – I can’t wait to taste them and then I don’t want to see them again for a year! If you have ever eaten them, you will know what I mean!

Ginger cookies are a great complement to all the butter and chocolate. I like to add chopped up candied ginger to the recipe just to be sure they have a good bite!

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cream together 3/4 cup butter, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup molasses and 1 egg. Sift together 2 1/4 cups flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt (if you use unsalted butter), 1 Tbsp ginger, 1Tbsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp cloves.

Add dry ingredients to butter mixture. Make small balls or use a cookie scoop and then coat in granulated sugar. Bake for about 10 minutes. Cookies should be flat with a ‘crackle” top.

Happy Baking!


friday favourite – FeedFive

I just learned about this project – – an innovative approach to funding and feeding folks in need of a good, home-cooked meal in a local community. Every t-shirt they sell provides enough money to buy the ingredients to make five full meals to feed five people.

I want to buy one for everyone I know. I love the simplicity of the premise, the website, the story and the t-shirt. And how something so simple creates the possibility to have such a profound impact.

Wouldn’t this be a great initiative in your community?


try this tourtiere

Spoiler alert – this is another pastry recipe. If you aren’t up for making it from scratch, you can definitely buy it premade and get right to the good stuff.

I’ve been working to perfect pastry with a friend. We started with sweet apple pie – read about it here. And this week we switched to savoury.

Tourtiere is a classic French Canadian meat pie that’s typically served during Christmas/New Year celebrations. Tucked between delicious layers of pastry is a combination of ground pork and special seasoning. Our version (not completely authentic) included mushrooms, onion, savoury, cinnamon, cloves and garlic.

With two batches of pastry and a bucket load of savoury deliciousness, we rolled, stuffed, crinkled and decorated a selection of sizes. And after a couple hours of flour flying and lattes guzzled, we had created this.

Jo’s Tourtiere

Saute 2 lb. ground pork in 1 T oil. Drain off fat. Stir in 3 chopped onions, 3 chopped garlic cloves, 2 cups sliced mushroom, 1 cup chopped celery, 1 tsp each of salt, pepper, cinnamon, cloves and savory (add more seasoning for more intense flavour).

Bring to boil and simmer, uncovered for one hour until fragrant and liquid is reduced. Stir in 1 cup bread crumbs and 1/2 cup chopped parsley. Adjust seasoning, cover and refrigerate.

Pack filling into pastry-lined pie pan, top with more pastry and seal edges together (see our finishing edges in the pictures). Brush with mixture of one beaten egg and 1 tsp water. Cut steam vents in top.

Bake @375F for 45 minutes until golden. Serves 10


come over for coffee

What coffee ritual did you grow up with?

We had a 16 cup perc coffee maker that simmered on the stove all day long.

Maybe those early days of gut rot caffeine explain my love/obsession for a great cup of java, and the entire process that comes with making it.

First, there is choosing the method. French press – Frieling is my new favourite. Melitta Individual cup drip with at least two big scoops of ground coffee per cup. Or espresso.

The cup. I love little mugs. My favourites are the one my sister made.

The addition. Always cream. Milk makes it look like mud. Unless it is frothed up in one of these frothers. And the first cup of the day is always better with some crumbled maple sugar.

And when it is all fixed up, I let it sit until it’s just the right temperature.


friday favourite: hydro flask

I like extremes when it comes to my beverages…

Coffee needs to be piping hot. Water needs to be icy cold.

I heat my milk before adding it to my coffee so it meets my temperature requirements.

Then I drink it. No interruptions, no conversation, just me and my scalding hot coffee.

Same is true for cold beverages. I want the glass filled with ice before I add a shot of gin for my G&T. When I’m exercising, I want cold water.

So, I was thrilled when I discovered the Hydro Flask Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle. No plastic to smell, no glass to break, just sturdy stainless steel. It has a wide mouth so I can add ice cubes, comes in all kinds of colours AND best of all, it doesn’t sweat! I can throw it in my bag and not ruin everything that the water bottle touches.

Walk 10,000 steps daily. Check. Thanks Fitbit.

Drink 64 oz of water daily. Check. Thanks Hydro Flask.


puppies and cinnamon buns

I gave myself a puppy for Christmas a few years ago. I picked up 8 week old Cooper (golden retriever…the only kind our family is allowed to own) two weeks before Christmas.

Part of the agreement I signed to be sure I was a worthy owner included the requirement to spend the first two weeks together – every day, all day, all night.

So my holidays started a little early that year when I picked him up. By day two I wondered what I had done. He wasn’t my first puppy but I had obviously forgotten about the eat/pee/sleep/pee repeat routine.

After endless pee break nights, we were usually up for good by 5 am. Well, I was up for good. After his repeat routine, he was back to sleep by about 5:15. I decided to get festive and productive and made yeast breads and cinnamon bread.

With the jump start on the day, I could be enjoying coffee and fresh bread by about 8 am. Here are some of my favourites that I will be making this holiday season, a little later in the day. Don’t let the yeast part turn you off. They are all definitely worth the effort.

Cinnamon pull apart bread from Joy the Baker


Overnight cinnamon buns – a recipe from my sister that she makes every Christmas eve.

Stir the yeast and sugar into warm water in small bowl. In a large bowl, stir the butter into scalded milk until it melts. Stir in eggs, sugar and cool to lukewarm. Add the yeast mixture, then begin adding flour. Beat the dough with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes. Cover tightly with saran, then a towel, place in frig overnight.

Punch down dough and allow to warm up for 30 minutes. Turn onto a floured surface and roll into rectangle about 1/2″ thick. Spread melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Roll tightly into jellyroll shape. Slice about 1″ thick. Place rolls, cut side up, in 9 x 13 baking pan. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes,

And I recently found this recipe and plan to try it out very soon Maple cinnamon bread 


stitch fix


Stitch Fix is so fun, and sorry Canadian readers—it is not yet available across the border, much to my sister’s dismay. She only gets to see the selfies I send her of my new outfits.

What is it?! It’s a personal shopper who sends you five pieces of clothing whenever you ask them to. You fill out a style profile on line, select the amount you are willing to spend and then pick a date to receive your shipment.

It costs $20 for a ‘fix’ but if you purchase anything, the $20 goes towards your purchase. Once the package arrives, you have three days to decide what you are keeping. Whatever you don’t like gets shipped back in the prepaid envelope! So simple. Plus it comes with pictures of what to wear with the piece they sent you, for those of us who need a little help!

I am not a very patient shopper so this is perfect for me. Plus, I try things I would never even glance at on a rack.

If you want to give it a try click here for my referral code.


butter tarts

Image 1

Butter tarts make me happy. Maybe it’s because they aren’t readily available in the US that I have elevated them to a magical, anti-depressant art form. Or maybe it’s just because they taste so good. And I am not the only one that feels this way about butter tarts. In the 1999 song Steal My Sunshine the opening dialogue suggests that the way to cheer up Marc’s glum mood is with butter tarts!

They are Canada’s quintessential dessert. A domestic staple, definitely not an export. You only know about them if you have a Canadian friend.

I have to explain them to people in the US as a pecan tart without the pecans. But they are so much more than that.

There is an ongoing debate about what constitutes the best butter tart:

corn syrup or maple syrup? (maple syrup always)

raisins or no raisins? (raisins)

runny or firm? (runny!)

Let us know where you fall on the butter tart personality test! And tell us your favourite place to buy them. If you are in Southern Ontario, check out the Butter Tart Trail, a series of bakeries that feature butter tarts.

And finally, if you want to make them at home, I have included the recipe from the Laura Secord Canadian Cookbook—you are on your own for the pastry!

Prepare sufficient pastry to line 15 medium-sized muffin cups. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Pour boiling water over 1/2 cup raisins. Let stand 5 minutes and drain. Stir together 1/4 cup soft butter and 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar. Blend in 1 cup maple syrup, 2 slightly beaten eggs, 1 tsp vanilla & 1 tsp lemon juice. Stir in drained raisins. Fill pastry-lined muffin cups 1/2 full. DO NOT OVER FILL if you want runny tarts! Bake at 375 F for 15-20 minutes, or until pastry is golden.