Wednesday, July 29, 2009

christening a new home with crepes - recipe: crepes with crispy bacon, syrup & cinnamon

We recently moved. I loved our former almost-a-century-old house and cherish the memories of our four years there. Although we put a lot of TLC into making it a home we were proud of and reluctant to leave; it shrank overnight after our son John’s arrival. It’s amazing how much stuff babies “need”: activity centre + playpen + jolly jumper + vibrating chair + swing, (all on a smallish living room floor) = clutter & disarray.

Like any move, the first few days were chaotic and stressful. Our focus was on unpacking, not on cooking gourmet meals! I was hoping to “christen” my new kitchen by concocting a fabulous five-course meal complete with wine pairings… Yeah, that didn’t happen, what was I thinking?

I still wanted our “first” meal in our new home to be special, so I gave David two options: 1. spaghetti with aglio olio e peperoncino – recently his new favourite meal, or 2. crepes with bacon, syrup & cinnamon. David chose the crepes – a dish that his mother, Palmina, used to make for him.

David loves the combo of the soft warm crepe with salty crisp bacon, oozing silly-sweet corn syrup and dry spicy cinnamon. He is adamant that each of the three fillings is crucial to the success of the dish. David insists that the syrup be corn syrup – he won’t even substitute pure Canadian maple syrup – he claims it doesn’t contrast well enough with the other ingredients and "interferes" with the cinnamon – whatever that means... He only gets this passionate about a few things, usually food!

I however much prefer these crepes with maple syrup (sorry hun, but you’re not going to win this one). Just before any special day, I am guaranteed to hear David say; “Honey, I don't want or need anything, so please don’t buy me a gift, all I want is for you to make the crepes for me, o.k.?”

This recipe is awesome – you don’t have to let the batter sit (like most crepe recipes). I don’t own a crepe pan, I just use a simple non-stick skillet. We usually have these for breakfast or brunch but sometimes breakfast-for-dinner works too!

Palmina’s Crepes with Crispy Bacon, Syrup & Cinnamon

makes about eleven, 8 inch crepes


  • three eggs
  • two cups milk
  • one cup flour
  • one-half teaspoon salt
  • one teaspoon vanilla
  • three tablespoons melted butter or vegetable oil (plus extra to coat pan)
  • one 500 gram package bacon, cooked until crispy and then roughly chopped into ½” pieces
  • corn syrup or maple syrup, to taste (let me know which you prefer!)
  • cinnamon, to taste


  • Combine eggs, milk, salt, vanilla, butter (or oil) into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add flour in two or three additions and whisk until well blended and batter is smooth (you can also use a blender).
  • Heat an 8” or 10” skillet over medium-high heat and brush with melted butter or oil to coat pan. Pour a small amount of batter into skillet (about one-quarter cup), immediately swirling and tilting to coat bottom. Cook until crepe loosens from side of skillet and underside is pale golden, about two minutes. Flip crepe and cook the other side for about one minute or until pale golden. Continue to make more crepes in the same manner.
  • Place crumbled bacon, a drizzle of syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon in the centre of each crepe and roll “burrito” style.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

wine, cheese, old friends and new memories - recipe: shawn mcintyre's warm cheese olive bites

Once a month or so, David and I get together with my brother, Adam, my sister in law, Michelle, and our good friends Rob, Kim, Shawn and Jessica.

We meet after dinner for drinks and appetizers (thank you to the grandparents for those of us with children) and chat the evening away.

It’s such a treat that I look forward to it every month — lots of laughs and good cheer are guaranteed.

Because of our busy work and social lives we try to meet on weeknights. This makes it easier for the four couples to co-ordinate schedules and puts a “cap” on the evening so that we all get home relatively early, ready to cheerfully face the next morning.

The last gathering was particularly special because our dear friends Catherine and Rob were visiting from Australia and were able to join us.

Rob is like a brother to me and Adam and Rob are best friends. Growing up, our families spent a lot of time together. Rob’s mom is Ruth Bricker. I featured her Swedish Nut recipe back in December. Catherine and I met at the University of Guelph and were roomies for a few years, so we have plenty of history as well.

The homecoming dinner

To celebrate their homecoming, Adam, Michelle, David and I decided to co-host the gathering and serve dinner as well as appetizers. It was a “sneaky” way to buy a few more hours to spend visiting with them.

To start we served two appetizers. The first was Michelle’s famous nacho dip, accompanied by my baked brie with spicy strawberry compote.

Dinner was barbecued burgers, roasted veggies tossed in garlic scape pesto, smashed fingerling potatoes (drizzled with the garlic olive oil that I wrote about in my July 1 column) and strawberry almond salad.

Simple dessert caps off the night

We kept things simple and passed around a box of Rheo Thompson Candies famous “mint smoothie” chocolates for dessert.

It was such a great night. I laughed so hard that by the end of the evening it felt like I had done a thousand sit-ups (Rob is a paramedic and has a litany of “colourful” stories to share).

The hard part is always saying goodbye — although David and I are now more determined than ever to save up for a trip “down under”.

It’s our turn to host the next get together and I’m already starting to plan which appetizers I’ll serve. You could call it an occupational hazard, I guess.

Cheese is always a hit and goes great with the wine! Below is a recipe for Shawn’s famous cheese olive canapés, which are always the first of the appetizers to be gobbled up!

Shawn McIntyre’s Warm Cheese Olive Bites

(makes about six dozen - note: recipe can be doubled)


  • 250 gram package “MacLaren’s” sharp spreadable cheddar cheese, slightly softened (You can find this cheese in the dairy section of a grocery store, near the cream cheese, butter, yoghurt, etc. It comes in a red plastic container with black printing.)
  • 1/2 pound butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • a couple pinches of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • One 750 mL jar of pimento-stuffed green olives
    (I used stuffed manzanilla olives when I was testing the recipe)


  • Knead all ingredients (except for the olives) well and chill dough in fridge for about an hour.
  • Drain and pat the stuffed olives until dry.
  • Break off pieces of dough and roll around the olives to coat them completely. I used about 1 teaspoon of dough per olive but you can use more if you choose.
  • Chill olives before baking.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake on an ungreased baking sheet for eight to 14 minutes.
  • How long you bake the olives will depend on your oven.
  • Serve warm—preferably to good friends and family!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

some Italian treats that made the 'Shortt’ list - recipe: aglio olio e peperoncino

In May, to celebrate a milestone birthday of my mother’s, she and dad treated the family to a wonderful trip to Italy. We spent a week in Rome and a week touring around Tuscany. It was an extraordinary experience full of breathtaking scenery, gracious people and of course, incredible food!

I could fill a whole newspaper with details of our epicurean adventures, but I’ve narrowed down our highlights to the following Shortt list:

Pizza! We had delicious take-away pizza in Tuscany and an incredible roasted red pepper & basil pizza in Rome. Italians tend to go easy on the toppings –typically one or two toppings on each.

Tuscan bread soup. It’s quite thick – more like a stew than a broth. This soup is one of Tuscany’s most famous dishes; full of beans, vegetables, potatoes, kale and of course, bread. The best thing I ate on the trip was a bowl of this soup in a charming trattoria in Montepulciano.

The AutoGrill. A café/convenience store chain next to some gas stations along major highways. Oddly enough, the coffee was some of the best we enjoyed in Italy. You won’t find hamburgers and fries on their menu. They sell pastries, gourmet sandwiches, fresh salads and fruit along with the more typical snack foods. You can even buy a mini bottle of wine to enjoy with your meal! Talk about civilized! One of the AutoGrill’s we visited even featured separate “marché style” stations: primi (antipasti & formaggi), secondi (pasta & risotto), grilia (meat) and pizza stations!

The Coop grocery store. At “our” Coop (in Bagno di Gavorrano) the cheese and meat selection was out-of-this-world and everything was cut fresh-to-order. I was finally able to experience authentic ‘Mozzarella di Bufala’ – fresh buffalo milk mozzarella. In Tuscany, we ate most of our lunches at restaurants but enjoyed most of our dinners back at the villa. One dish that made many appearances at the dinner table was a buffalo milk mozzarella and sliced tomato salad drizzled with olive oil and fresh torn basil.

Gelato! Need I say more? I was amazed at the number of coffee and gelato shops – they are on every corner. My favs – Nutella (truly an Italian ‘staple’) and coconut. We found the Nutella gelato at ‘Antica Gelateria de Matteis’ near the Colosseum in Rome (the owner’s from the same town as David’s grandmother, and all of their gelato is made in-house).

Spaghetti with aglio olio e peperoncino (spaghetti with garlic, olive oil & chili or hot pepper flakes). For lunch in the city of Massa Marittima, we shared four different entrées. This simple pasta dish was by far the best. It was David’s favourite entrée on our trip so I promised I’d make this for him back home. (Note: With this oil topping, David prefers the slightly thinner spaghettini over the more traditional spaghetti. He also "insists" on freshly ground pepper over the pasta just before serving it.)

The oil from this dish is outstanding – we like it so much that we’ve been drizzling it on everything but dessert! In addition to tossing it with spaghetti, try drizzling this “sauce” onto pizza, eggs, grilled vegetables, toast with tomato, and/or smashed potatoes.

aglio olio e peperoncino


• 2 cups (two cups) olive oil
• 25 (twenty five) garlic cloves (about one cup),
peeled and thinly sliced
• ½ - 1 (one half to one) teaspoon hot pepper flakes
• coarse salt, to taste


  • Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat.
  • Add one or two pieces of garlic to the oil to test its temperature – a few bubbles should rise to the surface, but it shouldn’t make a lot of noise nor brown the garlic – if this happens, your oil is too hot and you need to turn the temperature down and wait a few minutes before trying again. (Note: if you add the garlic to oil that’s too hot, it will burn and taste bitter and you’ll have to start over from scratch!)
  • When the oil is at the correct temperature, add the garlic and stir for about a minute.
  • Add the hot pepper flakes and stir to combine.
  • Turn the heat to low and let simmer for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. The oil should taste of garlic and the garlic should be soft and sweet tasting when ready.
  • Season to taste with coarse salt.

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