Lemon-Vanilla Gelato

Happy Summer! I love making different varieties of gelato, ice cream and sorbet at home during these hot, dry months. When I was a kid, we had one of those hand crank ice cream makers. Every Fourth of July my parents would drag it out from the closet beneath our stairs, dust it off and fill it with ice and rock salt. It was my brother’s and my job to crank it, taking turns until our arms felt like jelly and it became impossible to turn. Then my father would take over and finish it off. It was such a special treat, but such an ordeal to make that we only got to enjoy homemade ice cream once or twice a year. Thank goodness for modern ice cream makers! Mine is, by far, one of my favourite small appliances – no joke!

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Pain Perdu (French Toast)

Our typical weekend breakfast rotation used to go a little like this: pancakes, waffles, French toast, eggs and bacon, on repeat.  Recently, however, it looks more like this: French toast with berries, French toast with whipped cream, French toast with maple syrup, French toast with apples, etc. It seems like the kids ask for French toast almost every day. I don’t blame them – if there was a definitive list of the most heart-warming “Comfort Foods,” this would certainly be near the top.

There’s no shortage of recipes and variations on French Toast out there.  It’s one of the most searched-for recipes on Google. Most of us have grown up eating some form of this treat, whether for breakfast or for dessert. French toast’s appeal comes from its ability to blur the lines between these two meals. In France, French toast, or pain perdu, is almost always served as a dessert. The name literally means “lost bread” because it was a way to salvage stale bread that would otherwise have gone to waste. But is French toast really? Mais non! Almost every country and culture has a method for reinvigorating stale bread with a mixture of eggs and milk.  With most things that are falsely attributed to France (French fries, French doors or le French kiss) the adjective only serves to make this dish all the more appealing. Continue reading “Pain Perdu (French Toast)”

Capezzoli di Venere Truffles

I haven’t written about Italy during this health crisis, though it hasn’t been far from my mind.  The heartache of what was happening both there and here in the US was almost too great to bear and I focused my energy on those nearest to me.  Everyone’s experience through this has been so vastly different and unique. I have so many friends who’ve lost their jobs, their businesses.  I often ask myself, “How can I write about recipes and food when there are still so many people struggling to buy groceries?” I’ve remained largely quiet on the blog for that reason, and many others.  Now, with the protests and unrest occurring nightly throughout the US and across the world, I wonder, “Will there ever be a right time to share this recipe?”  The post has been written for weeks, and I contemplated waiting until next year to share the recipe, but who knows where we’ll all be then.  Really, the right time is now, while it’s still technically spring – the season of fertility, rebirth and renewal. Please don’t see my decision to share this recipe and the story behind it today as indifference to the current events. My heart is broken for all that has occurred during the past weeks and months. Continue reading “Capezzoli di Venere Truffles”

Coconut Meringue Cookies

My husband and I have never really been into the sappy Hallmark holidays.  Mushy cards and sloppy romances were never my thing.  On Valentine’s Day we play a little game, trying to out-do each other with the most inappropriate and ridiculously raunchy cards we can find, then we’ll watch a James Bond.  Instead of flowers, or in addition to, he’ll often buy me a new record to add to our vinyl collection – The Beatles or Pink Floyd or something else he knows I love – and pick up some oysters on the way home.  I’ll cook a big meal while he puts on the record.  It starts with the oysters, followed by maybe steak with béarnaise sauce (he likes his meat just barely kissed by the flame), sautéed potatoes, butternut squash bisque, with a sweet little treat at the end.

My love language is music and his is food, so it works . Continue reading “Coconut Meringue Cookies”

Gâteau au chocolat

I’ve learned not to get too attached to the idea of Spring here in Colorado.  The weather will deceive you into thinking that she’s on her way, only to spurn you with an arctic cold shoulder leaving you frozen for weeks. There are many years when we skip Spring altogether and go from winter to summer in a day’s time.  Yo-yo weather, I call it.  And what an up and down week we’ve had!

Much to the delight of the kids, school was cancelled three out of 5 days last week because of the snow.  Two came from a forecasted storm and one was a surprise when a different storm which was supposed to bring only a dusting of snow ended up dropping 5 to 6 inches on us.  C’est la vie.  At least we can rely on chocolate cake to get us through these winter months. Continue reading “Gâteau au chocolat”

Carrot and Pineapple Sheet Cake

I do think there’s something so comfortingly nostalgic in a simple sheet cake. Like the cakes our mothers use to make before Instagram, when it didn’t really matter how pretty or trendy or photogenic or impeccably styled the food was. There was no such thing as an ombré, eight-layer, tiered, naked cake because, in those days, a cake was as much a frosting delivery device as it was a celebratory exclamation point. Don’t get me wrong, I love the creative cake movement.  But in the days of sheet cakes, what was really important was that there was an occasion worth celebrating, and what better way than with a thick slab of heavily frosted cake. Continue reading “Carrot and Pineapple Sheet Cake”

Peppermint Bonbon Tart

December began in a flurry of icing sugar, clouds of winter-white whipped cream and cool peppermint candy canes.  My mother’s birthday was last week and I make her a peppermint bonbon tart every single year.  It’s her very favourite.  The recipe has been in our family forever – or at least since the gelatin-dessert-crazed sixties – and I absolutely love it.  My grandmother used to make this tart for my mom when she was a girl.  The recipe was eventually passed to me, as the designated dessert enthusiast of the family.   I made my typical, modern adjustments and adaptations (replacing shortening with butter; freshly whipping the cream; etc.) while keeping its vintage charm. Continue reading “Peppermint Bonbon Tart”

Embossed Gingerbread

These delicately embossed gingerbread cookies are the perfect way to welcome the festive season!  I’ve always loved the look of embossed rolling pins, and this one from Embossed Pin is so pretty with a whimsical forest scene that’s perfect, not just for Christmas, but all winter long.  And it’s really starting to feel like winter around here.  The light is different, it has an iridescent quality as if the sun is shining through shards of ice, and we’ve had three major snowstorms already.  But the house has never been cozier, especially when gingerbread is baking and the kitchen is filled with the blissful scent of cinnamon, cloves and ginger.  Isn’t this the most magical time of year?! Continue reading “Embossed Gingerbread”

Halloween Hand Pies

“Normal is an illusion.  What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.”   –Morticia Addams.

There are “normal” hand pies, and then there are my Halloween hand pies.  I’m not a huge Halloween person, actually.  Out of all of the holidays, it’s one of my least favourite.  Of course, there are elements of Halloween that I love – the earthy magic, the subtle eeriness, black cats and classy black candles paired with winter-white pumpkins, carving Jack O’Lanterns with my kids, the sense that the veil between this world and the next has been lifted for just one enchanted evening – but I try to carry this magic with me throughout the whole year, not just on Halloween.  What I don’t like is that here in the US the holiday has been distorted and come to symbolize something dark, morbid and evil.  It’s used as an excuse to be tastelessly gory with violent images decorating houses and bloody costumes, or it’s a reason for people to simply act ridiculous.  I don’t want to sound old-fashioned here but, to me, Halloween is deeper than just a child’s holiday.  It means Samhain bonfires and forest magic; harvest celebrations with apples, pumpkin and corn; the turning of the seasons; light to dark; a night to feel closer to family and friends who have passed on; and for the little ones, trick or treating!  (Little ones only!)  In my opinion, the guts and gore take away from the etherial mystique that surrounds Halloween, and they’re anything but classy. Continue reading “Halloween Hand Pies”

Cinnamon-Sugar Jack O’Lanterns

Yesterday my husband and I made a little bet.  He said it couldn’t possibly snow this early in the season. It’s not even Halloween yet!

I said, “Anything’s possible.”

I won.

It felt more like December than mid-October, with the snow falling in giant flakes outside the kitchen window, and there’s nothing I love to do more when it’s snowing outside in December than to bake holiday cookies.  So I queued up my winter playlist (which includes a few Christmas songs for good measure) and set about baking these fun little Halloween treats. And that’s how I happened to be carving Jack O’Lantens while listening to Christmas music yesterday.

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