We happen to be bulk buyers of oats in my house — seriously, if you need a bag or two, drop by. Our tiny pantry has all varieties, quick cooking, icky flavored peach instant oatmeal (Collin Murray can be blamed for that) and good ol’ old fashioned oats. So basically, if I see a recipe where I can use some up, I take full advantage. Then I found this lovely recipe and knew it was going to be an instant hit. You see, just as we have buckets of oats in the house, we also have no less then three varieties of maple syrup because a certain someone, ahem, not me, loves maple syrup.

These scones are really lovely. They are moist, dense, hearty and have just a hint of maple-y goodness. Perfect for a hearty, quick breakfast for a busy oat and maple-loving hubby.

Maple Oat Scones (adapted from Flour)

Makes about 10 scones

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ¼ cups oats, not quick cooking

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup dried cherries

½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

⅓ cup heavy cream

½ cup maple syrup

1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, soda, salt and cherries. Add the cut butter and mix for about 1 minutes, or until the butter resembles the size of peas.

In a small bowl, whisk to combine the cream, maple syrup and egg.

Pour the liquid into stand mixer and mix on a low speed until the mixture is just combined, about 30 seconds. The mixture will be slightly wet.

Using a ⅓ cup measure, scoop out the batter onto a parchment lined baking sheet about 2-inches apart. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes or until the scones are lightly browned and a cake tester inserted into the middle of one of the scones comes out clean. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes. Enjoy.

Any foodie with an internet connection has a collection of food blogs that they regularly check. Personally, I just love seeing what these people come up with, how they style things — it’s a little like daily inspiration for me. One of my favorite blogs is Joy the Baker. Her blog is fresh, funny, sweet and frequently features pictures of her handsome orange cat. How can you go wrong, really?

I found this recipe on Joy’s site and immediately decided to try it out because I was truly curious to see what using all brown sugar would taste like in a cookie. I also decided to take Joy’s advice and added butterscotch chips and chopped pecans to the batter, just for a little texture and extra sweetness.

I must  say that I was thrilled with these cookies. Using all brown sugar made for a cookie with a lovely caramel flavor and the addition of the butterscotch chips and pecans made the cookies pretty addictive. Just ask Collin Murray, they didn’t last long…

Butterscotch Brown Sugar Cookies (adapted from Joy the Baker)

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¾ cup unsalted butter, softened

1 ¼ cups brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste

½ cup butterscotch chips

½ cup pecans, rough chopped

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk to combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and brown sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about three minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the egg and vanilla and continue beating about 1 minute.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix until the batter comes together and the flour has disappeared. Add the pecans and butterscotch chips and mix until just combined. Using a medium-sized cookie scoop, portion the batter onto baking sheets.

Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes or until puffed and lightly browned just on the edges. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. Enjoy.

 

I don’t know how it happens. Wait a minute, yes I do. I know exactly how I end up with 23 bananas in my freezer. I don’t eat them; they go bad; I feel bad; I can’t throw them out. So I freeze the bananas and then they tumble out of the freezer when I’m digging for…the ice cream…and then I get mad and find a way to make something out of at least a few of them. Does this ever happen to you?

This recipe is a new take on an old favorite. Originally, this banana bread (which praise name uses four bananas!) didn’t have chocolate chips in it, it had raspberries. However, being that there is still snow on the ground and fresh raspberries aren’t necessarily all that seasonal, I decided to use chocolate chips and I must say that I’m pretty happy with the results.

Banana Chocolate Chip Loaf (adapted from Self Magazine)

Makes one 1-pound loaf

2 cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

4 large very ripe bananas, mashed

¼ cup milk

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste

½ to ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray a 1-pound loaf pan with non-stick spray and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk to combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the flour mixture and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the mashed bananas, milk, egg and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into the flour well and fold together the batter with a spatula until not quite all the flour is absorbed. Add the chocolate chips and continue folding with the spatula until the batter just comes together.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top with the spatula. Bake for about 1 hour or until a cake tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow the loaf to cool for about 30 minutes before removing from the pan. Enjoy.

In my house cookies and cream ice cream doesn’t stand much of a chance. A certain husband especially enjoys the big chunks of cookies amidst the cream. As such, I figured that I really couldn’t go wrong by making a cheesecake version.

Now I’ve been wanting to make these little cheesecakes for years because they just seem so ingenious to me. I mean, come on, using an Oreo cookie as the crust! It’s freaking brilliant…and delicious. Once baked, the cookie softens and adds the perfect amount of crunch to the base of the cheesecake.

Plus, coupled with the chunks of Oreos that you fold into the cheesecake batter, it’s like cookies and cream heaven.

Mini Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes (adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes)

Makes about 16 cupcake-sized cheesecakes

24 Oreo cookies, 18 for the crust, 6 to be chopped

1 pound cream cheese (2-8 ounce blocks), room temperature

½ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

½ cup sour cream (not non-fat)

Pinch of salt.

Preheat the oven to 275˚F. Place liners in two standard-sized muffin tins. Drop an Oreo cookie to serve as the crust in each liner and set aside.

Roughly chop the remaining six Oreo cookies to be folded into the cheesecake batter. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until it is very smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. About 3 minutes. With the mixer on a medium speed, add the sugar and vanilla. Beat well, at least another minute. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping after each egg is added to ensure a smooth batter. Add the sour cream and salt. Mix for an additional minute. Fold in chopped Oreos.

Using a medium-sized cookie scoop, portion the cheesecake batter into the Oreo lined paper liners. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes or until filling is set. Cool completely at room temperature, chill for at least four hours in the fridge before serving. Serve cold. Enjoy.

I know I’ve been a little obsessed with citrus lately but in my defence, it’s that time of year when the only produce that’s any good is citrus. Plus, it’s just so dang refreshing and I’ve been wanting to make these key lime bars for a long while. I just think key limes are so cute and I’m a sucker for cute things.

The only thing that makes these bars a bit of a pain is juicing all these key limes. Since they are little you about get about a tablespoon of juice per lime. Settle in for the long juicing haul or get a citrus juicer — you will thank me, I promise.

These bars are light and fluffy and have a fantastically crunchy crust. They are quite tart from all the key lime juice but they would be the perfect end to a meal of rich comfort food.

Key Lime Bars (adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookies)

Makes one 8-inch square pan

1 cup crushed graham crackers

⅓ cup granulated sugar

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3 large egg yolks

⅔ cup freshly squeezed key lime juice (between 15-25 key limes)

1 can sweetened condensed milk (300mL or 14 ounces)

Whipped Cream, to serve, optional

Sliced key limes, to serve, optional

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Stir till well combined and press into an 8 by 8 inch square pan. Bake for 10 minutes, allow to cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat egg yolks on high until very thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Turn the mixer speed down and slowly add the sweetened condensed milk in a steady stream. Speed the mixer up and beat mixture thoroughly for an additional 1-2 minutes. Lower the speed, add the lime juice and mix until just combined. Pour the filling over the crust. Use an off-set spatula to ensure that the filling reaches into all the corners of the pan.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the filling is just set. Allow to cool at room temperature for at least 20 minutes, then refrigerate for at least four hours before serving. Top with whipped cream and sliced key limes if desired. Enjoy.

Believe it or not, I’ve never made a pineapple upside down cake. It’s not that they don’t sound delicious, I just never found the right occasion…The right occasion, this time, turned out to be a lovely ripe pineapple.

What makes this cake skinny is that it uses whole wheat flour, less fat, less sugar and by favorite tenderizer in cakes, low-fat buttermilk. It also lacks the trademark of a pineapple upside down cake, the maraschino cherry but I found that it wasn’t really necessary, as this cake is delightful just as it is.

Skinny Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (adapted from Everyday Food)

Makes one 9-inch cake

⅓ cup canola oil, plus more to oil the baking pan

1 cup packed brown sugar, divided

1 firm, ripe pineapple, cored and cut into 12 or 16 wedges

1 cup all purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoons kosher salt

¾ cup low fat buttermilk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Rub teaspoon or so canola oil into the baking pan. Line with parchment paper leaving a large overhang.

Sprinkle ¼ cup brown sugar on the bottom of the parchment-lined pan. Arrange pineapple in an artful manner.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk to combine flours, baking powder, soda and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk to combine the remaining ¾ cup brown sugar, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Fold in the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Pour batter over pineapple, using an offset spatula to ensure that the batter reaches all four corners of the pan. Tap the pan on the counter to help the batter to settle on the bottom of the pan.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the pan comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool about 30 minutes and then invert onto a cake plate. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy this skinny delight.

 

I love pineapple but I know a lot of people don’t buy them because they seem like a real pain to get into. Use this guide and after a couple pineapples of practice, I promise you will get the hang of cutting a pineapple. I like to use a serrated knife because I find the knife sinks its teeth into the pineapple well but you can feel free to use a chef’s knife too.

First, you remove the top and bottom of the pineapple — now you have a flat surface to cut on.

Then, just like with supreming citrus, you remove the skin off the outside of the pineapple. Use your knife and saw down around the outside of the pineapple until all the rough, prickly pineapple bits are gone.

Now, look down the center of the pineapple and see the circular little core. You want to use the core as your guide and cut the pineapple in half.

Cut the half, in half.

Cut the quarter into half.

Use your knife to remove the core. Place your hand on the outside of the pineapple to stabilize it as you cut. Locate the core and with your knife on an angle, cut it own.

You can now flip the pineapple onto the flat edge created by removing the core and decide if you want to: Cut it into strips.

Cut it into wedges.

Or cut it into tidbits.

Enjoy!

When I was little, I loved ordering Shirley Temples. I mean, come on, they were pink, sweet, delicious and I felt super fancy sipping them out of a tall cocktail glass. Now that I’m a relative grown-up, I still like to order a Shirley Temple now and again. Collin Murray thinks I’m crazy but that’s ok, Shirley Temple’s are worth it.

Shirley Temple (adapted from Canadian Living Magazine)

Makes one virgin cocktail

2 tablespoons homemade grenadine

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

1-2 cups ginger ale soda

Ice

Orange slices and maraschino cherries, for garnish (optional)

In a cocktail glass, add ice, grenadine and orange juice. Top with ginger ale. Garnish with orange juice and maraschino cherries, if desired. Enjoy.

*If you like, you can add an ounce of vanilla vodka for a Drunken Shirley Temple…quite delicious.

At the beginning of the year, I made a little promise to myself to try and make more of the things in my fridge and pantry from scratch. Lots of times, we get into the habit of buying condiments, spreads, jams, and other staples from the store because it’s easy but many times, it is less expensive and healthier to make your own.

Grenadine is a thick red syrup that is used to flavor cocktails. When you purchase it from the store, grenadine is basically high fructose corn syrup with red food coloring. Yum? Uh no. My version is equal parts pomegranate juice and sugar — still high in sugar, but far and away more natural then the store bought version. One batch takes about 10 minutes and will keep in the fridge for six months: an easy start to keeping my ‘make from scratch’ promise.

Homemade Grenadine (adapted from Canadian Living Magazine)

Makes about 1 cup

1 cup pomegranate juice

1 cup granulated sugar

In a small saucepan, combine both ingredients. Allow mixture to boil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool. Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to six months. Enjoy.

Collin Murray has been a busy man lately. A busy man with no time to eat. Since no one likes a h-angry husband, I’ve been trying to come up with quick snacks for him to have on the go and this one was so dreadfully easy and tasty that I couldn’t help but share it with y’all. The trail mix gets its name from the fact that you can use one ½ cup measuring cup to portion out the whole recipe.

½ Cup Trail Mix

Makes about 6 cups

½ cup dried cherries

½ cup dried apricots, cut into thin strips

½ cup salted pumpkin seeds

½ cup sunflower seeds

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

½ cup yogurt covered raisins

1 ½ cups whole pecans

1 ½ cups whole almonds

Place all the ingredients in a large re-sealable plastic bag. Shake to combine. Enjoy.