Nutty Peanut Butter Cookies

IMG_7580I was sitting waiting for my car to be serviced, and noticed on the coffee bar that there was a container of homemade cookies. As I sat, I watched how many people took one as they walked by. Pretty much everyone took one, including a gentleman who took one simply to feed to another customer’s dog. It was such an easy thing for the dealership to do, and yet it instantly made the area homey. For employees and customers alike, it made it less of just a work place, and more friendly.

Having been away for a while, in a non-baking climate, and busy before hand, I haven’t made cookies in a long while. With just the two of us home now, I certainly don’t need a jar full.  But when the urge to bake some arose, I used my usual catering trick, I made the cookies but didn’t bake them. I formed them and put them in the freezer until frozen solid, then tipped them all into a freezer bag. All that needs to be done, when we want some fresh cookies, is to cook 8 or so at a time. They cook just as easily from frozen as they do fresh, with maybe a minute or so longer in the oven.

I decided to clean out my nut supply (which I keep in the freezer), as most containers were getting low. There were about 2 cups of mixed raw, unsalted nuts, including some salted Virginian red-skinned peanuts. Somehow that inspired me to make peanut butter cookies, filled with a good selection of other nuts as well. The extra bit of salt from the red-skinned peanuts are great addition.

Without the nuts, this is my very oldest peanut butter cookie recipe from the 1970’s. Hand-written on an well-worn index card. Although I’ve tried other versions, this is the one I use most often, especially when someone is expecting a traditional slightly chewy peanut butter cookie. The recipe works well with Cup-4-Cup all-purpose gluten free flour. Continue reading

Frozen Espresso Nougat with Pistachios & Bourbon

IMG_6179Frozen nougat is a lovely way to end a meal.  It is so light, and a half–cup serving is all that’s needed.  If the dinner has been a full one, it’s nice to serve something light and cool for dessert.  Remember that dessert is the last thing on your guests’ palates.  It needs to be memorable, in a good way!

I’ve served this many times over the years, but in a very simple version.  It was a bit of an epiphany for me to add in the espresso & bourbon, and switch the nuts to pistachio.  When I was making this batch, I was making enough for twenty.  After preparing the nuts (which I did the night before), it took me just over an hour to have all twenty covered and in the freezer, ready for a dinner in a couple of days’ time.

I served them with a tray of small mixed cookies, an easy but special finish to a great evening.  Continue reading

Chocolate Date Cake

IMG_5149While our girls were growing up, we always had extra children in the house.  It helped that we were the closest home to the island’s one room schoolhouse.  Consequently I tried to have quick snacks that would refuel them before they’d head out to play on our farm.  Sometimes it was just a snack to eat while curled up on the couch watching a movie on a rainy Saturday.  This recipe was used many times over the years, and was a favourite of the builders who built our house.  The dates give it an honest sweetness, and the simple topping of nuts and chocolate give a crunch and richness to make the cake even better.

I’ve made this cake with regular all-purpose flour and with gluten free flour (I use Cup 4 Cup), and it is light and fluffy whichever you choose to use.  The nuts can be any type you want, or even a combination.  Do use semi-sweet chocolate chips though, as milk chocolate will be too sweet. Continue reading

Swiss Chard with fruit & nuts

We grew up next door to an elderly couple, the Coles.  Mr. Cole had converted most of his very large back yard into a year round producing garden.  I think they realized that although we were a big active family with “always room for one more”, that our parents needed to be very thrifty to keep it all afloat.  We were the oft recipients of armfuls of produce.  1# tomatoes, lettuce, beans, cucumbers, corn, lettuce, squash and chard would all make their way to our table.  He also gave us heaps of kale, which I’m no longer very fond of.  Kale is the new super food.  Just to let you know, it was a super food in the 50’s, too.

Swiss chard was one of my favourite veg to grow, as it is beautiful in a garden.  The multi-coloured stalks with its deep green, glossy leaves make a fabulous backdrop for other plants.  Now I buy it from the farmers market.  In bundles!  This is my version of a basic French recipe.  It will make enough for 2 – 4 servings, depending on how big you want the servings! Continue reading

Farmhouse Granola

In 1970, my parents were in their early 40’s and were actually cool.  Dad was finding his woodcraft roots in building a boat, and Mom was in a midi vest with her hair in a French roll, making healthy foods.  I can remember so well shopping at Galloway’s on Robson, and at International Foods.  Not every thing Mom made was wonderful, but she was going out there, trying.  We had one of her high school textbooks from Home Economics, and believe me, trying anything new was a big step, comparatively.

We would look through the burlap bags sitting on the floor at Galloway’s, filled with nuts, seeds and other interesting ingredients.  International Foods would fill your olfactory senses with strange exotic scents from burgeoning countries.  About this time, Granola became a mainstay in our society’s food cache.  It has changed over the years, but here’s what I remember.  Mixed grains, nuts & seeds, sweetened with honey and dried fruits.  I no longer remember exactly how we made it, but here’s the version I now make for our family and friends. Continue reading