Monday, 20 October 2014

Autumn Colours, and Pumpkin Bacon Bars

Remember what I said about capturing all of the spectacular fall leaves with my camera?  Well, the leaves have been pretty amazing these past few weeks but the photos just didn't happen.  I've admired autumn from the inside of my car, framing beautiful shots in my minds eye while driving back and forth to school, work, hockey, and the grocery store.  Yesterday I noticed that a lot of the fiery reds and brilliant yellows are making way for shades of gold and bronze.  The show is almost over, so I give you autumn as shot from my mobile phone.

We celebrated Thanksgiving around work and hockey schedules.  Despite the rush, it was an enjoyable long weekend.  We had a traditional turkey dinner and there were plenty of desserts, compliments of my Mom. 

Fall Chrysanthemums, Pumpkin Spice Lattes (thanks to my future daughter-in-law), and dogs in sweaters.

Gingerbread Biscotti.  I'll be sharing this recipe soon.

Until then, I have these Pumpkin Bacon Bars to share.

Sweet pumpkin on top of a shortbread crust, sprinkled with candied bacon.  And that's no ordinary shortbread, it's shortbread made with bacon fat.  Yep, the same bacon fat that makes Saturday morning fried potatoes so wonderful.  

I started out making the candied bacon.  It was as easy as coating a few bacon slices in brown sugar and cinnamon, then letting them bake in the oven until they were crisp enough to crumble.

A simple batch of shortbread, and a sweet pumpkin layer that took no time to mix up.

Pumpkin Bacon Bars.  Because bacon makes everything better.

Pumpkin Bacon Bars

For the candied bacon:
6 slices bacon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon

Combine brown sugar and cinnamon.  Toss the bacon slices in the sugar mixture until well coated.  Bake in 350°F oven, turning a few times, until crisp enough to crumble.

For the crust: 
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup bacon fat

For the filling: 
1/3 cup pumpkin
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cardamom

Preheat oven to 350°F.  

Use a pastry cutter to combine the ingredients for the crust.  Once it's crumbly, use your hands to work it until it holds together in a ball.  Press into the bottom of a greased 8 x 8 pan.  Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven.

For the filling, combine the brown sugar, flour, salt and spices.  Whisk together with the pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.  Pour over the shortbread crust and spread evenly.  Return to oven and bake 15-20 minutes until the centre is just barely set.  

Allow to cool completely in pan before cutting into squares.  Top with candied bacon.


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Ten Years Ago, and Fall Colours

The fall leaves haven't reached their colour peak yet this year, so my camera is on stand by.  Waiting to capture the spectacular show that the trees put on each year.  Until then...flashback to ten years ago.  Many of the leaves were already on the ground, the kids were a lot smaller, and small town fall fairs were a must-see attraction.

Ontario Parks provides a handy map to help find the best of the changing leaves and fall colours.  If you're in the area, check it out:


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Photo A Day

Instagram lately.

I haven't been taking a lot of photos these past few weeks, aside from the quickies that make their way to Instagram.  It's a good thing too, otherwise I might not have a record of the dirty dishes on my stove, or the crappy weather we've been having.

I'm still in an end of summer funk.

I did perk up a little last week when I got an email from ThisLife by Shutterfly.  I'd forgotten that I signed up for their photo storage site months ago, and they sent a really cool "on this day seven years ago" message which put a smile on my face.

Wow, seven years.  Holy lobsters.  Looking at the photos I could swear it was only a couple of years ago.  I wonder what memories will show up in my inbox next?

Monday, 15 September 2014

One Pan Italian Sausage and Pepper Pasta

In my never ending quest for quick, healthy, and tasty weeknight meals, I find myself referring more to Pinterest and a few favourite food bloggers, and less to the collection of cookbooks I've built over the years.

Which is how I stumbled across this recipe at Iowa Girl Eats.  I made some minor changes to accommodate what I had on hand, and increased the quantities to allow for many teenagers feeding at the same time.  I ended up with an amazing dish that everyone ate, it took me less than an hour to make, and I only dirtied one pan....and a cutting board...and a knife... and a spatula.

Red and green peppers, and a Vidalia onion.

Mild Italian sausages, because not everyone in our house likes the hot ones.  Use Hot Italian sausages if you prefer.

When they're finished cooking, remove them from the pan and cut into quarters.  Then sauté your veggies in the same pan.

Pour in some chicken stock and marinara sauce, along with a few spices.  Add the pasta and sausages.  Simmer until the pasta is cooked.  Eat.

One Pan Italian Sausage and Pepper Pasta

2 packages Italian sausage, 10 sausages total
1/4 cup water
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1/2 large white Vidalia onion, or one small cooking onioin, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups chicken broth 
3 cups marinara sauce
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp crushed chili pepper 
1/4 tsp thyme
1 lb / 900 g penne pasta

Cook the sausages in a large pan, this will feed eight people....unless you cut the quantities in half.  Once they start to brown, pour in 1/4 cup of water so they don't blacken and stick to the pan.  While they're cooking, slice up your peppers and onions.  When the sausages are cooked through, remove to a plate or cutting board.

Sauté the peppers and onions in the same pan that the sausages cooked it.  Don't clean want to keep those pan flavours.  When the veggies are crisp tender, add the garlic and sauté for another minute or so.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Pour in the chicken broth (I used turkey broth) and a good quality, authentic marinara sauce.  This is not the time to be opening up the Ragu or the Prego.  I used a jar of the White Linen Marinara Sauce from Costco. Stir in the spices and bring the mixture to a boil.  Add the pasta and ensure it is entirely covered by the liquid. Cut the cooked sausages into quarters and place them on on top of the rest of the ingredients in the pan. Cover and simmer 8-10 minutes until the pasta is cooked al dente. Stir and serve, with or without some shredded cheese or shaved parmesan on top :)

Cast Iron Skillet Recipe Round-Up | Gooseberry Patch

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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Hemp Seed Muffins

I was up at 5am today.  Early enough that I finished two cups of coffee before the sun even came up.  Usually, I'm hitting the snooze button at 6am, sometimes even at 6:30am... playing the can-I-still-get-ready-and-get-lunches-packed-in-less-than-an-hour game with myself every time I whack the alarm clock.

I am not a morning person.

But this morning I was on a mission.  Evenings have been busy since school and hockey have started back up.  We spent most of the weekend at a hockey tournament, and even though I was patting myself on the pack for getting the laundry done, the much needed trip to the grocery store didn't happen.  Instead we were picking up milk, bread, bananas, juice, hot dogs, and pizza on our way back and forth to the tournament.

Last night, after spending the evening back at the rink, I realized there wasn't a bagel or slice of bread left in the house.  No cold cuts, no cream cheese.  The staples required to feed my sandwich and bagel loving crew were gone, and I was too tired to do anything about it.  So I did what I've done many times before.  I set my bread maker on time delay, and got busy making pizza buns bright and early this morning.

Of course, there weren't any granola bars left either...just three empty boxes sitting in the cupboard masquerading as granola bars.  So while the pizza buns were rising, a quick batch of muffins took shape.

Over-ripe bananas, oatmeal, chocolate.... and hemp seeds.  I sort of  felt like I was cheating on my beloved chia seeds when I threw them in, but these are some healthy little seeds, and they made me feel a whole lot better about the pizza and hot dogs.


Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Hemp Seed Muffins

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup hemp seeds
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 ripe bananas - mashed
  • ⅓ cup oil
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375°F and line a muffin tin with 12 baking cups.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together oats, hemp seeds, yogurt and milk. Set aside to soak for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together remaining dry ingredients in a small bowl: flour through nutmeg.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together mashed bananas with oil and egg. Add to the soaking oat mixture and stir to combine.
  5. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until just barely combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Do not overmix or you’ll end up with tough, dry muffins.
  6. Scoop batter evenly into 12 lined muffin tins, filling each to about 3/4 full. Bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
This made 18 small muffins.  I should have doubled the recipe!

Click here to go to my Pizza Buns recipe:

And if you're looking for another chocolatey oatmeal muffin, try this one.  It has pumpkin, flax, and chia seeds:

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