I can see no reasonable excuse to keep a pound of fudge around the house. Torturous and tempting, you know you shouldn't eat it. But those sprinkles, they're so cute. How can sprinkles be bad for you? It turns out they can't be. Scientific fact. I should know 'cause my husband is a doctor. And he ate the whole damn thing. 

If you dare, click right here.
I have a dear obsession with orchard fruits. I can't wait to be be back in Ontario, travelling down Highway 8 from Hamilton to Niagara. My home girl Babcia beside me, talking about how much the road has changed from when she moved there 60 years ago. It will officially be summer when I bite into a fragrant peach, my hands sticky from the juice. Until then, cherries will fit the bill. Fresh from the market, they're as delicious and sweet as can be. 
This recipe from Lidia Bastianich sounds like a dream, and I plan on making it before the short cherry season is up. I think I'll skip the hand made pastry and go for the ready made stuff though. For the pastry recipe and to see a picture of the finished dessert, go to the link at the bottom of the page.

Ricotta and Cherry Strudel

The filling
Breadcrumb mixture

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups unflavored dry breadcrumbs
6 tablespoons sugar

Ricotta filling
2 pounds fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese (preferably large-curd)
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 pounds fresh cherries, pitted, drained, juices reserved, or two (12-ounce) packages frozen dark sweet pitted cherries (about 3 cups), thawed, drained, juices reserved
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons maraschino liqueur or Cointreau (orange-flavored liqueur)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
Powdered sugar

The filling
The strudel dough is sprinkled with a breadcrumb mixture and topped with drained ricotta cheese and drained cherries. The remaining cherries and juices are turned into a cherry sauce.

Breadcrumb Mixture
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs; stir constantly until light golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in 6 tablespoons sugar; cool.

Ricotta filling
1. Line large strainer with double layer of cheesecloth; set over deep bowl. Place ricotta cheese in strainer. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (liquid will drain from cheese; discard liquid). Transfer cheese to clean kitchen towel and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

2. Using electric mixer, beat 1 3/4 cups sugar and 3 tablespoons butter in medium bowl. Add eggs, 1 at a time; beat until smooth and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Add drained ricotta, lemon peel, orange peel, and vanilla; beat just until blended. Refrigerate filling while preparing cherries and rolling out dough.

1. Stir drained cherries and 11/2 cups reserved juices, 1 cup sugar, lemon juice, and liqueur in medium bowl; set aside at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

2. Drain cherry mixture, reserving liquid. Place 2 cups cherries on layers of paper towels; reserve remaining 1 cup cherries for sauce.

3. Transfer reserved cherry liquid to small saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Stir in reserved 1 cup cherries. Cool sauce completely.

The dough
Strudel Shortcut
No time for making dough? Follow recipe as directed but replace the strudel dough with purchased thawed frozen phyllo sheets. You will need 32 thawed frozen phyllo sheets (14x9-inch size) from one 16-ounce package and 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted. Place large kitchen towel on work surface. Slightly overlap four 14x9-inch phyllo sheets, forming 22x17-inch rectangle atop towel. Brush with butter. Repeat 7 more times with remaining phyllo and butter, forming 8 layers total. Assemble as directed with prepared breadcrumb mixture, ricotta filling, and cherries. Roll up strudel; brush with butter. Bake at 375°F until phyllo is golden, about 1 hour.

Putting it together
Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush 18x12-inch rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. 

Brush dough with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over dough, leaving 1 1/2-inch border on all sides. Starting at long side closest to you, about 2 inches from edge of dough, spoon ricotta mixture lengthwise in 3-inch-wide log, leaving 3-inch plain border on short sides. Press 2 cups drained cherries lightly into top of ricotta mixture, spacing evenly.

Roll up
Starting at long side closest to you, fold up dough over filling. Gradually roll up strudel, enclosing filling completely. Fold short ends of dough under; pinch to seal.

using towel as aid, transfer strudel to prepared baking sheet, seam side down and bending into crescent or horseshoe to fit sheet. Brush 2 tablespoons melted butter over strudel. Cut several 1-inch-long 1/8-inch-deep slits along top.

Place strudel in oven; reduce temperature to 375°F. Bake until firm and light golden, about 1 hour. (strudel may crack and juices may spill onto sheet). Run thin knife under strudel to loosen. Cool on sheet. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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There isn't really a recipe for this. It's basically just thrown together with what you have around the house. I wanted to make this with quinoa, but had couscous in the house. You could use any small grain, pasta, rice - trust yourself and just go for it.

I used:

1 cup uncooked couscous, cooked using package directions
a handful of green beans, trimmed and chopped in half, then steamed
1 red pepper, diced
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup each raisins, almonds, sliced dried apricot
2 sliced green onions
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup Balsamic Vinaigrette

After cooking the couscous, I spread it out on a plate to cool, then mixed in a large bowl with the remaining ingredients. That's it! 
I paired it with some store-bought spanakopita and made a dippy out of sour cream, lemon zest and dill. It was a good no cook meal for a hot summer evening, and the leftovers the next day were even better. Will definitely be making this again, it's too easy not to!
Oh, how I long to be sitting on a beach, preferably with the scent of orange blossoms and sea salt wafting through the air. Instead, I will fix myself a drink, aptly named The Amalfi, and live vicariously through Pinterest photos.
Mix together:
  • 1 ounce Blue Curaçao
  • 1 ounce Amaretto
  • 1 ounce cream or whole milk
  • 2 ounces orange juice
  • lots of ice
  • make it pretty with an orange slice and drink your rainy day away
Landscape / Italy / Amalfi
Amalfi photo is from one lucky dude on Flickr.
I'm going to let you in on a little secret I have. I love the Netherlands, if for no other reason than the culinary awesomeness that is The Bitterballen. Nothing is better than sitting on a patio with a beer in one hand and a plate full of crunchy goodness in front of you. Soft on the inside, and crackling on the outside, these are the be all and end all of croquettes. We chose a mix of vegetable filled and ham filled, complete with spicy dipping sauce on the side. It is the perfect bar food. 
At SAM SAM in Enschede.
Dressed to impress, this recipe is dead simple to execute. Make it once and you'll never need to look at the recipe again. Go to your market and buy local, in-season asparagus and you can give yourself a smack on the back for being such a conscientious at-home chef. 

You will need:
  • 10 stalks of white or green asparagus
  • 1 package puff pastry
  • 200 ml creme fraiche + 1 tsp Dijon mustard, and 1/2 tsp kosher salt and pepper, mixed together
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere or other Swiss cheese
  • Olive oil for drizzling
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. 
Prepare your asparagus. Lop the woody inch off of the bottom of each spear. If using white asparagus, be sure to peel the entire stalk. I cut the asparagus in half lengthwise, and then set aside.
Roll out your pastry and with a sharp knife, score the pastry about an inch away from the edge, around the periphery of the pastry. Be careful not to cut through. Bake for 10-15 minutes until just golden and remove from the oven. Bash the middle down with a spoon, until all the puffiness is gone. 
Your scoring made a magical crust. Go you! Now bash the hell out the middle, leave the crust alone.
Spread your creme fraiche mixture over the bashed down surface, add your cheese and then arrange your asparagus along the width, alternating the direction of each spear if you're fancy. Drizzle olive oil over the top. Return to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes, or until you're worried the crust is about to burn. With a large knife, cut the tart into squares and serve with a crisp white wine. Enjoy!
Better known as crack for budgies, millet appears in grocery stores here for human consumption. In my never ending quest to find some balance with what I eat, I've been finding myself more drawn to vegetarian cooking. Paired with a simple salad with a dijon vinaigrette, this was a meal that even the kids enjoyed. It tastes like crunchy rice-a-roni balls, and there can't be anything wrong with that. A full recipe can be found in The Joy of Cooking Cookbook, but here's the low down:

You will need:
1 yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes, packed in oil
1/3 cup millet
1/3 cup long grain rice
2 cups vegetable stock
1 green onion, sliced
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup grated parmesan
Vegetable or Canola oil for frying

Finely chop your onion and sauté in 2 TBS olive oil until translucent.  
Add the millet and rice and sauté for about five minutes, or until golden brown.
Add your garlic and tomatoes and stir for thirty seconds.
Add your veggie broth, bring to a boil and then down to med/low. 
Cover and cook for 30 minutes until the millet is tender and the water has evaporated.
Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.  Cool slightly and add your cheese, green onion, tomatoes and egg. Stir to combine.

With wet hands, mould the mixture into patty cakes (!) of about 2 inches thick. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Heat over med/high heat enough oil to cover your pan by a 1/4 inch. Fry four or five patties at a time. About 4 minutes on one side and then 2 on the next. Repeat with remaining patties. 

Drain on kitchen towel and serve immediately. Serves 4, with 2 cakes each.
On a bike ride the other day, we discovered this cafe named Nachtisch (Desserts) and resolved to make a visit sooner rather than later. Mother's Day was a perfect excuse to have sweets for lunch. We didn't hold back and each ordered what we wished.  
Claudia in her chocolate, chocolate and chocolate glory.
Eloise picked the simplest looking dessert, which ended up being the fan favourite.  It was a white chocolate torte with berries and jam on top.  So freaking good.
How fancy is THIS?  Vanilla bean panna cotta with chocolate brownie and brulèed sugar crisps. Dollops of white chocolate ganache and sour cherries dusted with pistachios. Gelato on the side and oh, of course gold. This was over the top and quite yummy, but looks were definitely its most defining attribute.
Ice Tea - Mint, Lemon, Cherry, Banana
We spent the better part of an hour there, just enjoying the sunshine while the girls played with puzzles. If you're ever out Münster way, I definitely recommend a visit. They serve my favourite Roestbar coffee and have a gorgeous patio, abundant with potted herbs. They also sell homemade preserves, which was a perfect little gift to pick up for Mother's Day.  
Here's a little old lady tip, courtesy of the Babcia, for helping dough to rise:
  1. Turn on your oven.
  2. Check that it's getting warm in there.
  3. Shut the heat off.
  4. Put in your dough to rise, leaving the door ajar.
  5. Voila!

If you follow these steps exactly, your dough will rise perfectly and you're on your way to making bread.  However, if you're anything like me you'll take Step 2 to heart and singe the top of your hand on the heating element as you check if the oven is warm enough. (It is.) I gather it's a pretty bad burn since I didn't actually feel it happen but rather HEARD it happen.  And now that I've hopefully whet your appetite, a recipe.  For bread.

The Joy of Cooking: Dill & Cheddar Cheese Bread

Heat until warm (105° to 115°F):
  1 1⁄2 cups milk
Add to it and stir until the butter mostly melts:
  1⁄3 cup sugar
  1⁄4 cup (1⁄2 stick) butter, softened
  1 tablespoon salt

Remove from the heat. Combine in a large bowl and let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes:
  1⁄2 cup warm (105° to 115°F) water
  2 packages (1 1⁄2 tablespoons) active dry yeast

Stir in the milk mixture. Add and beat until smooth:
  1 large egg
  1 1⁄2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar (6 ounces)
  1 T fresh dill
Beat in well:
  3 cups all-purpose flour
Add and continue beating and stirring until the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl:
  2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
Knead the dough about 10 minutes. Transfer the bread to an oiled bowl and turn it to coat with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (75° to 85°F) until doubled, about 1 hour. Grease two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. Punch down the dough, divide it in half, and shape into 2 loaves. Place in the loaf pans and let rise again until nearly doubled, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush the loaves, if desired with:
  (Melted butter)
Bake about 30 minutes. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
Remove from the pans to a rack to cool completely. 
I halved the recipe because I only have one loaf pan, and it still turned out better than expected.  Meaning, I expected something along the lines of dried out play-doh and this wasn't that. Seriously impressed with myself about this.  I think the burn gave me battle courage and the bread surrendered.  Or something like that, I don't really know how to talk tough.  
After spending the morning at The Hamilton Farmer's Market and Public Library, my friend Sarah and I decided to take a trip to Ottawa Street.  Back when my Mom was a child, my Babcia would take her to the Avon Theatre to see movies like "That Darn Cat" and then off to pick up fabric and a stop by the butcher where Mom would get a big hunk of Polish sausage to munch on. 
Like many things in Hamilton, Ottawa Street had a grand heyday and then slowly started to decline.  It's still a beautiful street, but not a destination so much as it used to be. 
Stories like this make Hamiltonians sad.  We hold on to pictures of a bygone era and say "Wasn't this nice, don't you wish we could have this again?"  And sometimes, we get lucky.  Sometimes, a committed group of people get together and try to start up a community movement.  On Saturday, Sarah and I happily strolled in and out of boutique baby shops, antique stores and we were fortunate to finish our stroll at the Cannon Coffee Co.
The two young women who own the shop were friendly and open to talking about owning a shop on Ottawa Street.  The coffee, using beans from local roasteries, was delicious and heady.  The decor was sunny and fresh and I hope that lots of people take advantage of the sunlight that floods the place and grab a coffee and a book and stay a while. As they work out their menu, the current price of a coffee is "pay what you will".  I hope they make LOTS!