Category Archives: Breads and Quickbreads

Mouth-Watering Apple Galette

I’ve made a lot of apple pies over the years, but tonight I felt like making Apple Galette – a slightly different variation of a classic dessert with a French twist. It tastes similar to apple pie and isn’t really any more time-consuming to prepare, though the galette’s presentation is much more elegant.

Whenever I think of apple pie, what comes to mind isn’t exactly Thanksgiving or holidays as one might expect. I’m usually brought back to the memory of two vociferous budgies I once owned and to an old friend from my days at the Royal London Wax Museum. I used to bake this friend apple pies in exchange for his frequent bird-sitting services whenever I went on vacation.

The year that I started working there, I had just finished reading The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and was intrigued by its Napoleonic villain, Count Fosco, whose eccentric habits included taming canaries and perching them on his shoulders to sing sweet songs in his ear. Young, misguided and easily impressionable, I thought that taming canaries would also be a sure-fire way to impress a prospective girlfriend I had invited for dinner that very weekend. I convinced myself how smitten she would be with my feathered menagerie of yellow friends and also with me as their modest but proud father/trainer; so I coaxed my roommate to drive me to the pet store that afternoon. Ignorant of birds and lacking a substantial budget, I ended up with two cacophonous budgies who squawked without pitch or melody all day long, much to the dismay of my neighbours, instead of ending up with the sweet-sounding canaries I had hoped for. The girl never did end up coming over and the only trick I was ever able to teach my budgies was to eat from my hand, a far cry from the Cinderella scene I had envisioned.

Whatever apple pie means to you, whether budgies, family dinners or the gratuitous scene from American Pie, try this apple dessert out instead as a break from the ordinary.

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Mini Cinnamon Buns (Monkey Farts)

Okay, admittedly the name of this dessert requires some explanation to those that don’t know me from my childhood days in Montreal. When we were kids, my brother and I fell in love with a type of cinnamon bun that our friend’s mom used to placate us with. They were small, bite-sized cinnamon buns which she affectionately called Monkey Farts. My brother and I had coincidentally also coined this same term to the very hilarious sound that one makes when doing the one-armed chicken dance with one hand cupped under the arm pit of the flapping arm. What can I say, it was the 80’s and we were easily entertained. Needless to say, this food and its juvenile moniker were very appealing. Years passed and monkey farts, like other childhood memories, passed from my ageing consciousness…until when recently at a bake sale at work I tasted something nearly identical to my childhood treat. Heads turned when I yelled out “Monkey Farts” in a room full of suits.

This is probably one of the easiest and quickest cinnamon bun recipes you’ll try – you don’t need yeast and you don’t need to let the dough rise. Enjoy the recipe….and for good measure try doing the one-handed chicken dance around your kitchen with a mouthful of cinnamon bun. Continue reading


Homemade Tomato Soup with Pesto Grilled Cheese

There is something to be said for having comfort food to help get through the dreary and cold winter months. I’m not talking about Rocky Road ice cream or Oreos and a glass of milk, although that would probably work too. For me, what comes to mind is Campbell’s Tomato Soup and grilled cheese for dipping. Maybe it’s the rain or the lack of Vitamin D from Victoria’s cloudy climes, but I’ve been feeling particularly lazy and uninspired this past week and in desperate need of comfort food. I’m ashamed to admit that I had peanut butter and jam sandwiches for dinner three days last week and then bacon and eggs another time, which is very unlike me. So I’ve decided that something homey, healthy and relatively easy would be on the menu tonight to propel me through this next week on the right note.

Although tasty and inexpensive, Campbell’s soup was a little too easy tonight, so I tried to pull together something homemade that tasted close enough. I also love grilled cheese and have recently started putting a dab of pesto in the middle for some extra kick and have been experimenting with different cheeses to venture out of my Cheddar comfort zone. I didn’t have any regular pesto on hand, but at the back of the fridge was a jar of homemade pesto made from nettle plants that a friend from Saltspring Island had given me as a gift. For serving, call me crazy, but I get real enjoyment out of dipping my grilled cheese into the soup and then taking a bite of it when it’s warm and soggy. The perfect Sunday meal for eating while curled up on the couch in front of the TV. Continue reading


Fattoosh – Lebanese Herb and Toasted Pita Bread Salad

Ten days into 2011 and my resolve to eat healthier has not yet abandoned me completely, except for the short-lived Ferrero Rocher that I found in my jacket pocket this afternoon. In addition to starting a 21-day yoga challenge today to whip myself into shape, tonight I also decided to delve into my ancestry for a healthy and creative salad  – Fattoosh. I don’t normally get much satisfaction from eating salads; they are too light and unfilling, too limp and without personality, and they always leave me with dressing down my shirt – though this Levantine dish which sounds liked a sneeze makes other salads wilt in shame. The ingredient list for this salad reads very much like that for its close relative, tabouli (also recommended), except Fattoosh uses romaine lettuce, ground sumac for tartness and hardened pieces of pita bread crumbled in, originally conceived as a practical use for stale bread besides using it as a middle eastern frisbee.

Sumac is an ingredient that is hard to come by here in Victoria – at least I haven’t found it – though you may be in luck if you live near a middle eastern grocer. Sumac always makes me think about an ill-planned entrepreneurial endeavour from my high school days, when my best friend Jon and I ground up the fuzzy red berries from the sumac tree in my backyard, rolled them up in cigarette paper, and sold them to our grade 8 friends under the brand name “Smacs”. They tasted pleasantly sour and fruity when inhaled, though the trend never caught on with our peers. I wouldn’t advise trying this at home, but I do highly recommend that you add this spice to your kitchen collection for the purpose of cooking. If you can’t find it, I’ve added a variation to the recipe using lemon zest, which tastes close enough. Continue reading


The Best Low Fat Banana Bread You Will Ever Have

Mmmm. Best eaten warm.

The best banana bread ever? And low fat, to boot?

Yes, I know that is a tall claim. But I swear by this recipe. The only problem with it is my inability to stop myself from single-handedly eating both loaves within 24 hours (I fail every time). Interestingly, I actually hate bananas. I don’t like eating them on their own, but I am able to stand them if I add minimal amounts of it to bread. Therefore, my banana bread is light on the banana, but heavy on the bread. I always add a package of chopped walnuts, but whatever works best for you. I prefer to bake them in mini loafpans, because there is some forced portion control (not that it does any good in my case). But smaller is also just cuter. In any case, regardless of load size, enjoy! Continue reading


French Toast with Pecans and Creamy Orange Syrup

French toast with orange and pecans

This is a variation of the traditional french toast breakfast that most of us have grown up with: maple syrup-soaked, golden french toast. I’ve replaced the maple syrup with a fairly thick sauce made from butter, cream cheese, a reduction of freshly-squeezed orange juice and confectioner’s sugar. Admittedly the sauce looks like mustard and doesn’t appear appetizing, but I guarantee you may not go back to eating french toast the old way once you’ve had a bite of this. The sweet citrus flavours of both the egg/milk mixture and the sauce is a pleasant surprise and also results in less soggy toast than if using syrup (which is part of the fun, though, I know).

I’ve been on an orange kick lately, mostly because they and their sweet cousin, the clementine, have been on sale over the past month. I picked up a box this morning from the grocery store that will probably last me 3 days at the rate I’ve been eating them. I also purchased a small hand juicer a few months ago that I’ve recently started using to squeeze my own orange juice as well, which has been a treat. Continue reading


How to Make Perfect Muffins

For the longest time none of the muffins I made ever looked like the ones sold by a baker or handed to me by the local barista at Starbucks. Mine were the Ugly Betty of baked goods. Growing up, as well, I didn’t live in a house of positive muffin role models; we used to buy the Quaker muffin mix where all that was needed was water, like sea monkeys, and voila….a runt, mini-me version of a muffin would emerge.

I’ve since come across a muffin recipe in the March 2006 issue of Fine Cooking that makes bountifully large, delicious muffins every time. I’ve included it below with a few minor  tweaks of my own. Continue reading