Quick and easy Quince recipe


I love my quince tree in my backyard. In the spring it is covered with the most glorious blooms and in the fall I get to harvest the few quince that the squirrels have not already stolen. And every year with whatever yield I get for myself I make my husband and I a little treat known as Membrillo or Quince Paste. 

It takes a couple of hours to make, but the process is super simple and can be followed very easily no matter how many or how few quince you may have.

weighed quince

This year my yield was super small. I got 1lb of quince, but you can use this recipe for whatever amount you have.


  • 1 lb Quince
  • Lemon peel - small sliver of lemon peel, no pith
  • Vanilla bean - half of a bean, cut and seeded
  • 1/4 tsp Lemon juice 
  • 1 cup sugar

Peel and coarsely chop up the quince. Place the lemon peel, vanilla and quince in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook on simmer until quince is soft and can easily be pricked with a fork.

Strain the water and place the softened quince in a food processor and blend until smooth. Measure out how much quince you have (with 1lb of quince, I got 1 cup of puree) and then add equal part sugar (1 cup in this instance).

Place quince and sugar in a small pot over low heat and stir until sugar is fully dissolved. Leave over heat, stirring occasionally until paste is thick and changes colour to a gentle orange. Took 35 minutes with 1 lb of quince.

Then spoon quince out of the pot and place into a small pan lined with parchment paper. Place in oven on low heat (125 degrees) for 30 more minutes to dry it out.

Cut and serve - with a hard cheese from The Pantry in Toronto or from your favourite cheese shop.

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Bummed out Banana Bread

banana bread recipe

It's been a tough start to 2016 and today I am having a hard time feeling motivated to do much of anything on my to do list. And my to do list is long. Thankfully my husband is a wonderful man and while I retreat from life for a little time to build myself back up, he has revved things up on his end and is carrying the both of us.

I got back a week ago today from Calgary. I was out there for just under 2 weeks. I went out, because Mamacita Manning (my mom) is undergoing chemotherapy. In total she will have 6 rounds and between me, my 4 sisters, my aunt and my uncle - we are each taking turns to be there for her for each of her treatments. For seven days I took her to the hospital. On each day, she received 3 injections in her abdomen. Each day her stomach would get a little bit sorer and she would lose a little more of her appetite and her strength.

I flew back to Toronto last Wednesday and just haven't been myself since I got back. I feel a little like I left a part of myself with her...which perhaps is a good thing, because she needs it. But it makes it hard to face my days here.

On top of all of this, I have been diagnosed with frozen shoulder. Certainly not as serious as cancer, but I have to be honest - I would not wish frozen shoulder on anyone. It is not very treatable, yet it is strangely and chronically painful. Makes sleeping difficult and doing my job, which consists of lifting heavy boxes of produce, making jam, lifting heavy jars, setting up farmers market tents, etc rather painful and difficult.

So, I think it would be fair to assume that I am feeling a little bit sorry for myself. So seems like the perfect time to make some Banana Bread. My Auntie Dena shared this recipe with me several years ago. I have adapted it slightly over the years and what I share with you today is the adapted version.

Bummed Out Banana Bread


1 cup unsalted butter

2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs (room temperature)

2 tsp vanilla

2 tsp lemon juice

2 tsp grated orange rind

3.5 cups flour

1 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

5 ripe bananas (mashed)

1 cup sour cream

1 cup chopped pecans

Cream together butter and sugar, add eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and orange zest and mix thoroughly.

In a separate bowl combine flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In a third bowl combine the mashed bananas and the sour cream. Then combine the flour mixture and the butter mixture together. Do this slowly combining ingredients thoroughly. Stir in banana mixture and finally the pecans.

Pour into 2 greased and floured loaf pans and bake at 350 for 1.5 hours or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Then allow it to rest, cut yourself a big fat slice, toast it and smother it with marmalade and all of a sudden your frozen shoulder is temporarily forgotten because your taste buds are singing too loudly.

Understanding preserving recipes for the best results

preserving recipes

Have you ever decided that you are going to try a new preserving recipe and even after you follow the instructions closely, when you open that jar to test the results you find a runny jelly or a rock hard jam? It's disappointing - no two ways about it. Not only did you spend money on the ingredients but you took the time to set everything up and the results are less than perfect.

There are parts of a recipe that you need to pay close attention to and if you are new to preserving, you might now know it. Here are a few things you should pay close attention to in a recipe for consistent and delicious results.

Non-Reactive Pot or Pan - A lot of recipes start off by telling you the size of pan or pot you require and it will sometimes state non-reactive. It is important to use the size of pan asked for in the recipe because this determines how quickly the contents will come to a boil and how much of the liquid will evaporate. Both of these things are important if you want to achieve the desired 'set'.

Non-reactive is important because the natural acids in the fruits and vinegars used in preserving can react chemically with aluminum or galvanized metals and have dangerous results.

Stirring constantly, versus stirring frequently or regularly - Preserving recipes will often state that the jam should be stirred constantly, frequently or regularly. When it says to stir constantly, if you fail to do this your jam or jelly can come up to a full boil too quickly and not enough of the liquid will have evaporated. This will lead to a jam with a very loose set or a jelly that does not set at all. 

Powdered versus liquid pectin - these are not interchangeable. If a recipe calls for powdered pectin do not substitute it for liquid. Powdered pectin goes into a recipe right at the start and liquid closer to the end. They each react differently with the ingredients and substituting one for the other will lead to undesired results. It's also always good practice to check the expiry date on your pectin before using it.

A rolling boil - when a recipe tell you to bring something up to a rolling boil, remain patient and don't stop until you have achieved this boil. A rolling boil has been achieved when you stir the jam/jelly and the boiling does not stop. This is to ensure you are getting the product up to the temperature required to achieve set. If you stop before it achieves the rolling boil you are going to have inadequate temperatures for set.

Most recipes also ask that you maintain the finishing rolling boil for 1 minute. This is the appropriate amount of time for the pectin to begin to work. Boiling for less time may leave you with a soft set and over boiling can lead to a very hard set.

Skim off foam - You always want to skim off any foam that might appear on the surface of your jam or jelly. This foam is just trapped oxygen being released from the fruit and if you stir it back into the product, you are simply stirring oxygen into an environment where our goal is to be oxygen free. It's a simple step and it will increase the shelf life of your jam.

Headspace - Why do you have to leave a 1/4" headspace? If you leave more headspace, the contents of the jar may not expand enough to push any trapped oxygen out of the jar and you will have jars that do not properly seal. If you leave to little headspace, the contents may expand so much that they expand right out of the jar and into the water bath itself. This may lead to jars not properly sealing as well.

Hopefully these few pointers will help you achieve a perfect jam the next time you try out a new recipe.

Quick and Delicious Basil Vinegar

I have neglected my vegetable garden for several days and at this time of year that can mean numerous things await you. You can walk out and have vegetables that have grown past their prime, it can mean weeds have taken over places you wished they hadn't, that rabbits have eaten all of your carrots or that there is just a lot of stuff ready to be picked and consumed.

This morning it was the latter. There were green beans ready, so I picked them and they will be in this evening's salad. There were cucumbers galore, so I picked all of those and they will come with me tomorrow to the commercial kitchen and get turned into Manitoba Pickles (more on that in an upcoming post). The carrots are almost ready, so I picked one just for the flavour...delicious. And finally, the sage and the basil are in full swing. I already made several large batches of pesto and have that frozen for consumption at a later date. And I have plans for the sage. So what to do with the basil that is ready today and just simply can not go to waste?

The short answer - Basil Vinegar. It is a wonderful addition to pasta sauces and chicken stock and it is so simple that you can get it 50% completed in less than 20 minutes.

Basil Vinegar

2.5 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and slightly crushed

8 cups white wine vinegar

Rinse your basil thoroughly and then pat dry with paper towel. Once basil is completely dry, roughly chop and place in 2 separate clean and sterilized 1L jars. Add 1 clove of garlic per jar and set aside.

In a larger stainless steel pot, heat the vinegar, but do NOT bring it to a boil and remove from the heat.

Pour the hot vinegar over the basil and garlic into the jar, stir gently and then allow to cool. Once it has cooled down, place 2-3 layers of saran wrap over the top of each jar and screw on a jar lid. Place in a cool, dark place for a minimum of 2 weeks shaking the jar gently every couple of days to distribute the basil leaves around. NOTE: the leaves will float in the jar and this is ok.

After a couple of weeks, taste the vinegar and if you are happy with the intensity of the flavour move onto the next steps immediately. Otherwise, continue to let it sit until the flavour is where you want it.

Strain the vinegar over a bowl using a fine meshed sieve and disgard the basil. Rinse your sieve and using either cheese cloth or several layers of coffee filters, strain once again.

At this point in time you can pour the vinegar into your bottles (which you have of course washed and sterilized ahead of time, right?) leaving 1/2" headspace if you are using a screw cap. If you have a cork top, you will want to leave 1/2" headspace between the basil vinegar and the bottom of the cork.

Delicious basil vinegar that you will find no shortage of uses for through the fall and winter months.



Mint Lime Lemonade

It has been a couple of hot and humid days here in Toronto and working in a commercial kitchen tends to be pretty thirsty work. Yesterday the temperature soared into the 30's and I started my shift in the commercial kitchen at 8am. At any one given time there were a minimum of 5 burners on the go and of course the AC in the building was on the fritz...so you can only imagine how hot it got.

And what did I forget to do? You guessed it, I forgot to drink water and stay hydrated.

It only gets worse from here. After I wrapped up in the kitchen, I went home and unloaded approximately 120 jars of pickled cauliflower, unpacked all the tools I needed in the kitchen and repacked and reloaded the car for the evening's preserving class. It would be another 3 hours in a kitchen over a stove and once again the AC was on the fritz and once again, I forgot to drink water and stay hydrated.

So all day long today I have been thinking about a cool, refreshing drink.

On today's kitchen agenda is mint jelly, which I am making special order for a local butcher shop and while chopping the mint I was consumed with the thought of a mojito but lacked the ingredients to whip one together.

Looking around the kitchen I found lemons and limes, sugar and honey and of course mint. I came up with this and at this very moment I am sitting on my front porch with that cool, refreshing drink I have spent the better part of the day fantasizing about.

Mint Lime Lemonade


7 cups water

2 cups sugar

1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice

1 tbsp honey

1/2 cup mint, chopped

In a small pot combine 2 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar and over medium heat while stirring on a regular basis until the sugar dissolves, bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow the sugar mixture to cool.

Squeeze your lemons and limes and put the 2 cups of lemon/lime juice into a large pitcher. Add 2 cups of the sugar syrup, the remaining 5 cups of water, 1 tbsp of honey and the 1/2 cup of chopped mint.

If you have the luxury of time or perhaps more patience than I, place in the fridge and allow to cool. If like me, you want to drink this the moment it is made, add handfuls of ice, pour and enjoy!

Quick and Delicious Cream Puffs

I blame my mom. There is not a doubt in my mind that my mom is 100%, completely to blame for my current predicamant. You see, she has been visiting for the past few weeks and while she has been here there has been a lot of baking taking place in my kitchen. I came home from work last week and my entire house smelled like chocolate chip cookies. Then last weekend we made butterhorns and yesterday we decided to make cream puffs. And this morning when I went to put my jeans on - they felt a little bit tighter than usual. Way to go mom! :)

WARNING: You will only want to make these if you are having friends of family over. This recipe yields between 12-16 cream puffs and if you decide to make them you WILL end up eating them all yourself. Now don't say I didn't warn you.

Quick and Delicious Cream Puffs

Cream Puff Ingredients

1/2 cup butter

1 cup water

1 cup flour

1/8 tsp salt

4 eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla

Filling ingredients

2 cups Whipping cream

2 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla


Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a medium sized sauce pot and then add butter and salt. Stir over heat until butter melts and then bring the mixture to a vigorous boil. Add the cup of flour and continue to stir until dough forms a soft ball and leaves the sides of the pan clean. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook.

Fold in eggs one at a time and stir them into the mixture briskly until the mixture thickens and becomes quite stiff. Repeat this process with the remaining 3 eggs. Using a spoon,  place the mixture on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

While the puffs cool on the counter, you can make the filling. Place the 2 cups of whipping cream into a medium sized bowl and using an egg beater, whip the cream until it begins to thicken. Add the sugar and the vanilla. You can also choose to add chocolate or raspberry jam or a combination of other tasty ingredients should you choose.

Slice the cooled cream puffs in half and spoon in your filling of choice. We kept it traditional and true to the recipe and didn't add anything else to the filling and it was as delicious as I remember.


What do you get when you mix 3lbs of bacon, coffee and maple syrup together?

It all started with an innocent suggestion from my friend Sue on my facebook page when she asked me if I could make her some bacon jam. It was a simple comment but it started the gears in my mind to turn and then Chef Cheryl from the Meat Department on the Danforth offered me free bacon to experiment with and it was 'Game Over'.

I had bought some bacon jam in the winter and even though I LOOOOVE bacon, I found the flavour too bacon-y and perhaps lacking in complexity. So this weekend after picking up 5lbs of free bacon (and I promise I will only mention them one more time here) from The Meat Dept on the Danforth it was time to do a little research online to see what people were saying and doing when they made Bacon Jam. Some were adding tomato which sounded interesting while others were sticking to garlic and onion and then there were still others who were dancing with maple syrup.

What to do? What to do?

So this morning, I got down with my bad self in my kitchen and started to experiment. Bacon, onions, garlic, brown sugar, some very strong coffee, some maple syrup and a touch of vinegar all magically combined in my cast iron frying pan and turned my house into a mouth watering sensation. Even now several hours after the fact, my kitchen smells so good that my mouth waters when I enter it.

I now have 5 jars of bacon goodness sitting in my fridge and tomorrow I believe that I will go into the backyard and pick some ripe tomatoes from my garden and I will toast a little white bread, spread some bacon jam on there and then slice some fresh tomatoes on top and call it heaven.

Care to come for dinner?

Later this week, I will be swinging by and paying the good people at The Meat Dept a visit with 4 jars of bacon jam so they can do a little taste test and tell me what they think. I will share the verdict once I hear.



Scarborough Sangria

I have served this drink over the past 2 summers and almost every single person that has tried it has quite honestly loved it and most have ended up asking for the recipe and serving it themselves. Not a lie.

If you plan on having friends over for a bbq or up to the cottage or over to the pool for an afternoon of splashing and relaxing and you want to serve a refreshing beverage, this could possibly be the drink of your summer.

There are a couple of fantastic things about this drink and I will list them here in no particular order. It takes barely any time at all to make it. You make it by the pitcher, not by the glass (however you could downsize the recipe and make a glass just for yourself if you wanted), it won't break  the bank and it tastes delicious.

I have called it Scarborough Sangria.

1 bottle or inexpensive red wine (you choose whether that is a Malbec, a Shiraz a Cab Sauv)

1 L bottle of Fresca

Chopped strawberries and grapes (totally and completely optional)


Now here come the instructions though you almost don't need them. Open the bottle of wine and pour into a pitcher, add about half of the bottle of fresca, throw in the fruit and the ice and serve.

May this become the drink of your summer!

Lavender in bloom

I am a gin n' tonic girl if you must know. I enjoy this bitter refreshing drink quite a lot and if asked if I want an adult beverage it would always be my first choice. And then something strange happens to be about this time of year and I start to crave fruity drinks. Not crazy fruity drinks with umbrella's in them, but I still want something with just a slight taste of summer in them. Last night I decided to make rhubarb syrup. I took 2 cups of sliced rhubarb, one cup of sugar and one cup of water and simmered over high heat for about 20 minutes and then strained and added a touch of this syrup to some gin, lime and tonic. It was pretty tasty.

Today, when I got home from work I walked out to my backyard to check on the garden. The arugula, beans and peas are all coming up nicely which makes me happy. Then I glanced to my left and noticed that my gigantic lavender bush (is it a bush really? I don't know, but just roll with me on this one) and noticed that all of it's flowers are in bloom. This got me to thinking. What could I make with lavender.


After about 30 minutes of googling I settled on these as the top 3 with a 4th that is TOTALLY not a drink but sounded so good I had to share.

I will try these over the summer and if you comment on this post and perhaps vote for the one you think I should try first I may even share with you.


Lavender syrup

I love the idea of adding a splash of this to a glass of champagne or to cookie dough or ice cream. It seems so versatile and makes my mouth water just thinking about it.


Lavender Haze

A nice iced lavender drink on a day where it was close to +40 sounds about right


Lavender Ghost

This recipe had me at 'fancy version of gin sour'


Rhubarb fool with Lavender Cream

I am not going to say anything about this one...just read it and you will know why I chose it.

Rhubarb Madness

So I have been talking non-stop about the rhubarb in my garden to almost anyone who will listen. I spoke to my neighbour Bob over our fence on the weekend about how much rhubarb we have this year and that it took me til this summer to see the merits of it. I chatted my friend Kim's ear off this evening talking about the rhubarb jam I made that I have been smothering my toast, my pancakes and my yogourt with since I made it last week and I told my co-worker Rebecca about how delicious it is. Probably to the point of exhaustion...so my apologies friends and family.

I think I have a problem.

My husband has always loved Rhubarb and he would make it with custard all last summer. At the time I wasn't buying it. But this year my tastebuds did a 180 and I can't seem to get enough.

With that in mind I have been scouring cookbooks, blogs, my mom's old recipes for more ways I can twist and contort this wonderful spring time delight and thought I would share with you some of my favourite discoveries.

We will start with a recipe for Rhubarb Shrub. I love this recipe for a couple of reasons. I always love discovering something new and I had never heard of Shrub. But the other reason I love this is as I read the recipe my mouth actually started to water and I knew I had to try to make it. I even had to rush out and buy a scale. It is currently sitting in my downstairs fridge waiting for the first taste test.

The next recipe I found as I was trolling for good food blogs and came across this article in the National Post and started to click through to some of the blogs listed in it. The name of the recipe alone made me weak in the knees; Rhubarb Fool with Lavender Cream and Pistachios. Do I even need to say another word? I think not.

Then the justoposition of Rhubarb and Rosemary made me try this recipe last weekend and you wouldn't imagine this, but it tastes fabulous as a side with some roast pork. Trust me, it does...Rhubarb and Rosemary jam tastes great with pork.

Finally I will share a relatively simple recipe that my friend Allen shared with me last year. I sadly can not tell you if this is an original creation of his or if it is family recipe or something he got out of a cookbook. I just know that as he said when he sent it to me, that it is a winner:

Roasted Rhubarb Tarts with Strawberry Sauce
Yield: Makes 6 servings
Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17 1/4-ounces package), thawed
1 lb rhubarb stalks, trimmed and cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 (10-ounces) package frozen strawberries in heavy syrup, thawed
3/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream

Bake pastry:
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Unfold puff pastry sheet and gently roll out with a floured rolling pin on a very lightly floured surface into a 12-inch square. Trim edges with a sharp knife, then cut pastry into 6 rectangles (about 6 by 4 inches each). Arrange rectangles 1 to 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet and prick them all over with a fork.

Bake in middle of oven until pastry is puffed and golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Cool pastry on baking sheet on a rack.

Roast rhubarb while pastry is cooling:
Reduce oven temperature to 375°F.
Arrange rhubarb in 1 layer in a lightly oiled shallow 15- by 10-inch baking pan (preferably nonstick) and
sift 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar evenly over it. Roast in middle of oven until tender, 15 to 25 minutes, then cool in pan on a rack.
Make strawberry sauce and cream filling while rhubarb is roasting: Purée strawberries with syrup in a food processor, then force purée through a very fine sieve into a bowl.
Sift 5 tablespoons confectioners sugar over crème fraîche and whisk to combine.

Assemble tarts:
Sift remaining tablespoon confectioners sugar over pastry rectangles. Make a 3-inch lengthwise trough in the center of each rectangle by gently tapping with back of a teaspoon. Divide cream filling among troughs and top with rhubarb, then drizzle with strawberry sauce.

Cooks' note:
Strawberry sauce and cream filling can be made 1 day ahead and chilled separately, covered.

So now go forth and buy fresh rhubarb at the closest Farmer's Market to you, climb over your neighbours fence in the cover of darkness and pick some (unless you are my neighbour of course :)) and make something delicious with rhubarb.

Then we can talk about our addiction together and I won't feel so alone.