Archive for the ‘chocolate’ Category

Makes 5 dozen: These are going to my son and his room mates at UVIC

Makes 5 dozen: These are going to my son and his room mates at UVIC

What makes a good Valentines Day recipe to show your love to those special people in your life?

That depends on where you are in life. If you are in your 20s you probably want something beautiful and decadent to impress your partner (See the Food of Love 2012.) In you’re in your 70’s it might involve prunes (See Plum Clafouti.)

I have one son at university and another about to go. This year the Food of Love demands something delicious but easy; involving inexpensive ingredients and producing a big batch. This is for all the students out there.

If, like my son, you are on a budget, buy an inexpensive brand of peanut butter when it is on sale, get your chocolate and butterscotch chips and your oatmeal from the bulk section, and buy a box of margarine squares to keep in your freezer. These are pre-measured half cups perfect for baking and also sub in when you run short of regular tub margarine.

1 cup margarine (2 sticks or squares, softened)
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1.5 cups flour
1.5 cups quick oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
.5 cups butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Combine softened margarine, peanut butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.
Beat until very light and fluffy. Fluffier!

Combine flour, oats and baking soda in a smaller bowl, stir to mix.
Add into creamed ingredients and mix well.
Add in chocolate and butterscotch chips; stir.

Scoop dough into golf size balls on greased or parchment lined baking sheets.
Bake 10 minutes. If not browning slightly, give them 2 more minutes.
Cool on rack. Turn off the oven, Hon!

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The Cottager is technically Irish, so with St. Patrick’s Day falling on the weekend, it seemed a good time to invite the neighbours in. Everyone brought something, and it was a fine meal with lots of laughs on the side.

We started with a cheese plate featuring marbled Guinness cheese. Very pretty and mild. Andy made soda bread, which arrived warm. I made a dip with corned beef, dill and cream cheese.


Next up was two types of barbecued sausages, served along with brown onion gravy, green salad, and colcannon, a traditional potato dish with cabbage and bacon mashed right in.



Then there were two great cakes. I made Nigella Lawson’s dense Chocolate Guinness cake – I’d make it again, but I would try it in a tube or bunt pan another time as it sunk a bit in the middle. It has a cream cheese icing that makes the cake resemble a glass of Guinness.

My neighbour, Margaret, made a fabulous Bailey’s cake that apparently starts with a yellow cake mix but took it to another level. When I get the recipe I’ll post it.



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Easy on your pocketbook but a bit sticky on your fillings. You've been warned.

Oh dear, it has been awhile.  I’ll try to make up for it, starting with this super easy and inexpensive recipe for sponge toffee. It makes a big panful for gifts or sharing.  If you pine for Crunchie Bars, you will love this. It’s also variously known as sea-foam, hokey pokey and honeycomb.


One cup granulated sugar

One cup corn syrup – dark is best, but yellow and white work too

One tablespoon vinegar

One tablespoon baking soda


Line a 9×13 pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Combine sugar, corn syrup and vinegar in a LARGE heavy bottomed pot. This is important as you will end with a lot more volume than you begin with.

Cook over medium high heat until all sugar is dissolved, then bring it to a boil and cook without stirring until a candy thermometer registers 300 degrees or just a little higher.  Don’t have a candy thermometer? I used my digital meat thermometer and it worked fine. You can always cook it ‘old school’ and use the cold water testing method, in which case you are aiming for the “hard crack” stage.

Once there, stir in baking soda thoroughly. The mixture will foam up, at least tripling in size. Quickly scrape it into your prepared pan and allow to cool completely before removing and breaking into bite-sized pieces. 

If desired, melt some chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave or in a double boiler, then dip one end of each piece, and set on wax paper or parchment to cool.  Best if consumed in 48 hours or store in sealed container in cool dry place.

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Last year, just in time for Valentines Day, I posted my much-admired and oft-requested recipe for Chocolate Fudgies. If you are looking for another home-baked love offering for this year, I suggest this cake; the ultimate, recession-proof comfort food. This sweet and very moist treat requires no fancy ingredients and delivers a wonderful old-fashioned taste complete with a broiled-on sticky coconut topping. Its a great reminder that sometimes the best things are also the simplest – like love and gooey toppings.


1 cup quick cooking rolled oats

1  1/3 cups boiling water

1/2 cup butter or margerine

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1  1/3 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a small bowl, combine oats and boiling water and allow to cool 15 minutes while you assemble the other ingredients.

In a larger bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugars, then add the beaten eggs, and beat til fluffy.

Sift (yeah, I never do either!) the dry ingredients and add them  alternately with the soaked oatmeal to the creamed mixture until well blended. Turn into a buttered 8×8 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.  Check for doneness with a toothpick, then press gently in centre of cake to make sure it is quite firm before removing from oven – otherwise the weight of the topping may collapse the centre of the cake slightly.

While the cake is baking, mix the topping:


6 T melted butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sweet shredded coconut

1/2 coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

1/4 cup light cream

1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients together. While cake is hot, carefully spread the topping evenly.

Set oven to Broil and position rack 4 inches from the burner. Broil cake while you are bent nearly double WATCHING IT ALL THE TIME!

Topping will melt, bubble and turn golden brown in 3-5 minutes.  Cool and enjoy.  My work here is done and I am off to the cottage!

Coconut-glazed oatmeal cake

Coconut-glazed oatmeal cake

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Chocolate Fudgies 

Why not down that trowel for a few minutes and renovate your romance with a pan of these divine fudge/brownie hybrids?

The ingredients are pretty standard, the measures are round, and you can even leave your mixer in the cupboard if you have a whisk and a spatula to hand. The mini marshmallows melt away, leaving sweet-chewy spots throughout.

Just a few quick tips to ensure success: 

1 – Don’t overbake. The squares will firm up a bit once out of the oven, and are meant to be quite moist in the centre.

2 – It’s really worth it to line the pan – right up the sides – with parchment paper. Put a thin smear of margerine in the center of your 9×13 inch pan, press a generous sheet of parchment in, finger press some hospital corners and use scissors to roughly trim the excess paper away, even with the rim of the pan. 30 seconds and you’re done!


Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in medium-high position.


1 cup margerine or butter

4 squares unsweetened or semi-sweet baking chocolate

2 large eggs

1 cup white sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup chocolate chips

1.5 cups white mini marshmallows


Melt butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Beat eggs and sugars in large mixing bowl. Add cooled chocolate/butter mixture and vanilla and combine well.

Combine flour, salt and baking powder and stir thoroughly into wet ingredients.

Stir in nuts, chocolate chips and mini marshmallows.

Pour into well- greased or parchment-lined 9 x 13 inch pan and bake on high rack for 35 minutes.

Cool, slice and enjoy.  Happy Valentines Day!

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