For a few days every Spring, the crab apple tree in my parents backyard blooms with the prettiest pink flowers. After a day or two, petals start showering down until there is just one little flower left. The backyard is like a little sanctuary; surrounded by trees on all one could almost think they were in the country. Almost. I like to sit out there on the weekends with a nice cup of coffee and just enjoy the weekend, it helps take the stress of the week away.
My doctor recently told me to try not to stress. Easier said than done. He also told me to cut back on caffeine. He then went on to list things that have caffeine in them; coffee, tea, soda, chocolate…
I know that chocolate has caffeine in it, but the idea of taking chocolate out of my life as a way to reduce stress just seems like madness to me. So I have decided to selectively follow his advice. I don’t eat that much chocolate, but I’m not prepared to give up what I do have.
This tart wasn’t made to intentional defy the doctors orders, but he may have put the idea of chocolate into my head. I was flipping through Martha Stewart’s New Pies and Tarts, when I came across this recipe. I had all the ingredients and it looked really easy and quick to put together so I figured I’d give it a try. I was right, it was really easy to put together, but I’m not sure it could be made without a food processor. A few drops did drip out of the tart pan, so if you decide to make this placing a baking sheet on the rack below that tart.
Basically a flourless chocolate cake with pears, this tart is intensely chocolatey. The pear and chocolate were a really nice combination, and the almond rounded all the flavours out. I did find it a little too moist, I think some of the juice from the pear seeped into the tart.
Chocolate Pear Tart
Adapted very slightly from Martha Stewart
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup slivered almonds
- 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp almond liqueur
- 3 firm, ripe pears
- 2 tbsp apricot or apple jelly
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9 inch tart pan, set aside.
- In a food processor, combine the almonds and sugar until finely ground. Add the butter, eggs, cocoa, vanilla and almond liqueur. Process until well combined. Pour into the prepared tart pan.
- Peel, core and slice the pears and place them on the tart. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Heat the jelly slightly then brush on the pears. Let the tart set for 20 minutes before removing from the pan.
Last week I did something I hardly ever do.
I read. And not just 140 characters at a time. I read an actual book. From cover to cover.
I love to read, but somehow rarely take the time to sit down with a good book. The interweb pulls me in and sucks up all my time.
But while on vacation there’s always time for a good book. Last week I got caught up in the lives of the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The book takes place just after the second World War. Told entirely through letters, it tells the story of a group of people who survived occupation by the Germans on the British island of Guernsey. The literary society is created in a moment of panic. To make the lie the truth, the characters start meeting regularly to discuss literature. In doing so they discover a love of reading that helps them get through those difficult years. Although the topic is a very heavy one, the book is lighthearted and easy to read. I was skeptical about the format, but found that the characters came alive through their letters to each other. How can you not love a group of people who insist there be pie when all there is to eat is potato?
I got completely lost in the book and finished it in a day. It reminded me why I love reading so much, and so I’ve made a promise to myself to not always let the interweb grab my attention. I will curl up with a coffee and a good book more often. And maybe nibble on a few Almond and Sour Cherry Biscotti while I’m at it.
Before I give you the recipe I need to write a disclaimer. Although the biscotti were delicious, some of them broke as I sliced them. I think my almond pieces were too big. My suggestion is to make sure there are no large chunks or use an electric knife to slice the cookies.
Almond and Sour Cherry Biscotti
Modified from Food and Wine
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 1/2 cup almonds, chopped
- 1/2 cup dried sour cherries
- Preheat the oven to 325 F
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the almond extract. Add the dry ingredients then mix on low speed until well combined. With a wooden spoon stir in the almonds and sour cherries.
- Grease a baking sheet, then turn the dough out onto. Shape the dough into a log, about three inches wide 6 inches long. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until golden. Place the cookie sheet on a rack to cool for 5 minutes, then cut 1/2 to 1 inch thick slices with a serrated or electric knife. Bake the slices for 7 minutes on each side.
- Let cool completely before serving.
When I was a kid if you asked me what my favourite fruit was I would answer with zero hesitation: cherries.
Today the answer is a little more complicated. It varies from month to month. In June I think strawberries are the greatest thing ever. Once July comes around my attention is divided between raspberries and cherries. In August I eat Lac St Jean Blueberries by the handful.
I’d like to say that peaches are on my list, but I’ve found it increasingly difficult to find good peaches in the last few years. I remember eating Niagara peaches from those pretty little baskets when I was young that were incredibly sweet and bursting with flavour. Lately I’ve found them to hard and tasteless; so disappointing I would rarely buy them. This weekend I had a peach that brought me back to my childhood. It was exactly the flavours I remembered. These weren’t from Niagara; I don’t know where they were from (unless Costco is a country).
Fruit that good cannot be allowed to go to waste so I used a few in a crisp. I decided to add a few cherries to please my inner child as well.I flavoured the fruits with almond extract and added some almond meal to the crisp topping. If you can find oats that haven’t been in contact with wheat this dessert is a great gluten free treat.
Peach Cherry Crisp
- 3 large peaches, sliced
- 1 cup cherries, pitted and halved
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp almond extract (or 1 tbsp amaretto)
- 2 cups oats
- 1/3 cup almond meal
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup butter, cold and cut into cubes
- Preheat the oven to 375 F
- In a bowl toss the fruit with 1 tbsp sugar and the almond extract. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, mix the oats, almond meal, cinnamon and salt together. Add the butter, then using your fingers tips cut the butter into the oat mixture. It should clump together when combined
- Pour the fruit into a baking dish or pie plate, top with the oat mixture.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
- Serve warm or cold.
I did something stupid last week. My cousin and I have been discussing going on a trip this summer. I haven’t booked anything yet because my condo is still not sold. On Wednesday I was having a bad day so I decided to pretend that I actually am going away, and I went bikini shopping.
It’s been a few years since I bought a bikini; I know I’ve gained some weight in those years, so I tried one size bigger than what I used to buy. Disaster. I was popping out and bulging over all over the place. It really was horrifying to see.
I did not buy a bikini that day.
The experience did have a positive side. It motivated me to start going to the gym again. Because of my commute to the office, it’s easiest for me to go early in the morning. I get up around 5:45 and I’m at the gym by 6:30. After my workout I hope on the bus and head to the office.
To keep myself going after my workout, I need a snack I can eat easily on the bus. I used to buy granola bars, but the amount of sugar in them defeats the purpose of working out. Instead I’ve started making my own.
The recipe still needs some perfecting, the bars sometimes break apart when I’m cutting them, but I decided to share the recipe anyway. If any of you have made granola bars, I’d appreciate any tips you might have.
Cranberry Almond Granola Bars
- 1 ¼ cup oats
- ¼ cup bran flakes
- 1 tbsp flax seeds
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup chopped almonds
- 2 tbsp butter
- ¼ cup almond butter
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 325. Line an 8 x 8 in pan with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, mix the oats, salt, bran flakes, flax, chia, cranberries and almonds together.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter then add the maple syrup, almond butter and vanilla. Stir until combined.
- Pour the butter mixture over the oat mixture. Stir until all the oats are covered.
- Pour the oat mixture into the prepared pan, spreading the oat evenly.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until browned.
- Let cool completely. Using the overhang from the parchment paper, pull the granola out, and cut into bars.