Chocolate Pear Frangipane Tart

If you have a jar of lovely poached pears this is a perfect idea for using them. Of course you can poach them yourself in some sugar and vanilla. This is a chocolate crust made with chocolate cookies, a nice almond frangipane filling and the sweet pears on top.

Get the whipped cream and a great cup of coffee!

You will need:

  • 2 cups crushed chocolate cookies (homemade or Oreo crumbs)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 5 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup rum
  • 100 grams almond flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 4-5 poached pears (I used bottles pears from a winery poached in vanilla syrup)
  • sprinkle of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of apricot or orange jam heated and strained.

350 degrees F 30-40 minutes

Step 1: take some homemade cookies or you can buy store bought Oreo crumbs already crushed just like Graham cracker crumbs. I placed them in a food processor to crush. Once you have 2 cups add to a large bowl with sugar and melted butter. Mix until like wet sand.

Step 2: butter a tart pan with removable bottom (can be a round pan if yours isn’t rectangular) press in the cookie crumb mix and using a 1/4 cup measuring cup press evenly into sides and bottom of tin. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes.

Step 3: in a mixing bowl add butter and sugar and mix for 1 minute.

Step 4: add almond flour, rum, egg and almond extract. Mix until smooth.

Step 5: take some poached pears and slice into thin slices.

Step 6: layer the almond frangipane over the crust. Place fruit in a pretty pattern over top. Add a sprinkling of sugar over the pears.

Step 7: bake for 30-35 minutes.

Step 8: take some apricot jam and heat in a pan until more viscous and easy to brush. Brush on a bot over the pears.

Slice and serve with some soft whipped cream.


Chocolate Orange Walnut Cake

This cake is moist and decadent and just happens to be gluten-free. It is is also known as a Torta Caprese in Italy. There will be nobody feeling unhappy after a slice of this beauty, I promise!

It has a crunchy meringue like top and the inside is moist and rich. There is a nice balance between great quality chocolate and orange flavours and I simply cannot tell you how perfectly this goes with the soft, slightly sweetened whipped cream! Perfect!

In fact, my husband Big Pete said it was one of the best chocolate cakes he had ever had and neither one of us has a Gluten issue. Those who do will love it because it is not your typical dense gluten-free cake. In Europe many cakes have always been made with nut flour instead of wheat flour.

You will need:

  • 1 cup fresh walnut pieces – which will be processed to a walnut flour (1/4 cup used for dusting pan and rest in cake)**note you can replace walnuts for almonds or other nuts
  • 1 tbsp butter for coating cake pan
  • 1/4 cup mild olive oil or butter which ever you prefer
  • 150 grams of great quality dark chocolate – broken into pieces
  • 4 eggs – separated (room temperature)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 cup whipping cream whipped with 2 tbsp vanilla sugar until soft peaks
  • bit of powdered sugar or cocoa powder to top

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Step 1: process your walnut pieces for approx 10 seconds – you want a powder but, if you process too far it will turn into nut butter. You can use almonds, hazelnuts/filberts or your favourite nut here.

Step 2: place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of a 9 inch spring form cake pan and click the spring form right over it. I don’t even trim it. Then take 1 tbsp of butter and grease sides and bottom of pan. Remove 1/4 -1/3 cup of the walnut flour and coat the pan – knocking out any excess back into the bowl of the remaining walnut flour to be used in the batter of the cake.

Step 3: add a few inches of water to a small pan and place a bowl over the top to form a water bath. Heat on stove over medium heat to melt broken pieces of chocolate and butter (or olive oil). Let sit over heat for a few minutes before stirring. Once melted remove from stove and pan to cool before adding to cake batter.

Step 4: separate egg whites and yolks into 2 bowls.

Step 5: add 1 cup sugar to egg yolks, orange juice and orange zest. Mix with a whisk or hand mixer for 3-4 minutes this will dissolve the sugar and the egg yolks will become a lighter, paler colour.

Step 6: whip egg whites on high until you get stiff peaks.

Step 7: add nut flour to the egg yolk mix and stir to incorporate well.

Step 8: add cooled melted chocolate and mix well.

Step 9: fold in egg whites with a spatula until just incorporated. Folding is when you cut your spatula into the middle of the bowl and then cut down to the bottom and fold towards yourself, then flip back into the middle. Keep spinning the bowl, cut, fold over and turn…repeat until just blended. You don’t have to be scared or worried about this step just don’t whip it or stir hard or you will deflate the eggs you spent time whipping.

Step 10: Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes. It will puff and then crack and fall a bit.

Remove from oven and let cool at least 20 minutes (it will deflate and crack which is fine) run a knife around cake pan to loosen and unhook. Top with a bit of powdered sugar or cocoa and serve with whipped cream. Stays fresh in a covered container at room temperature for a few days. (I just cover the plate it’s on with the Spring form pan flipped over.)

I like to eat this while slightly warm best but, honestly it is still fantastic a couple of days later!!

Walnut Apple Phyllo Rolls with Lemon Honey Drizzle

Sticky and sweet like baklava. This dessert has the addition of a grated apple and cinnamon added to the nuts and drizzled with lemon and honey. The lemon syrup is poured immediately once it comes out of the oven and then absorbs while it cools. You can make this as straight logs (more like a nut strudel) or a circle. I have made it into a zigzag so it fits into my glass pan. I prefer to use glass for this kind of dessert because you can cut directly in the pan without damaging it. I also use a mild buttery olive oil instead of butter to brush the sheets of phyllo. The lemon goes so nicely with the apple and walnut.

You will need:

  • 2 cups ground walnuts (I always store whole nuts in the freezer and grind in the food processor rather than buy ground nuts- they go rancid quickly and fresh is important.
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 apple – peeled and grated (add the liquid and pulp)
  • 6 sheets of thawed phyllo dough
  • approximately 1/4-1/3 cup mild fruity olive oil for brushing – I used Domaine Oltremonti-Corsica
  • 1/2 cup honey (any kind you like)
  • 1/2 a lemon zested finely & then juiced
  • 1/4 cup water

Step 1: I store nuts in the freezer to keep them fresh. Nuts go rancid very quickly so taste the ones you are using to make sure they are not bad. I grind nuts in the food processor to get a fine/medium course consistency. Gather all your other ingredients. Make sure your phyllo is thawed according to directions on the box. I do mine in the fridge.

Step 2: peel an apple and grate it right to the core. Take the apple and any juices and add to a bowl. Add nuts, cinnamon, sugar and salt. Mix to combine.

Step 3: brush each of 3 sheets of phyllo dough with a thin layer of mild extra virgin olive oil or butter. I love that olive oil is delicious and so much healthier. Stack and brush each sheet with oil. 3 sheets makes 1 log.

Step 4: take half of the mixture and add along the longer side of the dough. Roll up. Repeat.

Step 5: brush oil or butter on bottom of a pan or baking dish. Leave logs straight or coil or form into a circle. Brush with more olive oil and you could sprinkle a bit more of the nut mixture if you like. I like the dessert to almost fill the baking dish so when you add the syrup it is contained near the roll and will absorb into it. So, whatever dish you use should not be much larger than the dessert.

Bake 25-30 minutes in a 350 degree oven until browned.

Step 6: in a small pan heat honey until just warmed almost to the boil. Turn off heat and zest 1/2 lemon and add fresh lemon juice and water. Stir. As soon as the dessert is out of the over carefully pour over the entire dessert. It will bubble and sizzle and you will think there is too much syrup but, it will absorb as it cools. Once cooled slice and serve with hot tea!! YUM.

Lasts on the counter for a day or two.



Dukkah is an Egyptian blend of nuts, seeds, spices and good extra virgin olive oil. It is such a versatile condiment that you can make it thick like a paste, thin like a dipping oil or mixed into some fresh herbs and made into a pesto for tossing over hot pasta. I like to make a batch and tuse some and then freeze the balance for another date. There are many combinations, traditionally they use hazelnuts, sesame seeds, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper but, I have added a few touches to make my own.

Don’t forget to use your best quality extra virgin olive oil here!

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios (salted or unsalted)
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts or I used heaped 1/4 cup fresh mixed nuts (easy to find and salted is ok.)
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds (whole)
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds (whole)
  • 1 tbsp dry thyme
  • 1 tsp flaked sea salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 clove fresh garlic
  • approximately 1/4 cup medium to a robust extra virgin olive oil – I used a beautiful Cetrone Colline Pontine made from Itrana Olives from Lazio, Italy

Step 1: gather all your ingredients.

Step 2: in a dry pan add pistachios, other nuts, sesame seeds, coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Toast for a few minutes until fragrant and lightly browned to release their oils.

Step 3: add contents of your pan to a food processor and process until ground but there is still some pieces. You don’t want this to be like a uniform powder but, a rough mix. Add salt, pepper, garlic clove and thyme and pulse again for a few seconds.

Step 4: add some dukkah to a small dish and add as much olive oil as you like to make either a thick paste or thin out like a dipping oil with bread or vegetables. You can also use this mix over chicken or fish as a dry rub or wet paste.

If you have any mix left I would store the dry mix in a small container in the freezer. I actually store all my nuts in bags in the freezer because they go rancid quickly if left in the bag or even a sealed jar on your counter.



Poppy Seed and Chestnut Rolls




This dessert always makes me think of my Mother. She would occasionally make this with ground nuts or poppy seeds but, she would also always buy them from the local delicatessen. My parents loved this with big mug of tea. I can still hear her moaning and licking her fingers in pleasure, sitting at the grey Formica table in our kitchen on Greenwood Avenue.


This is a lovely soft brioche like dough and can be used for cinnamon buns or filled with anything that makes you happiest with a mug of tea!!


You will need:


  • 2 tsp regular dry yeast
  • 1 cup warmed milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 eggs – room temperature
  • 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup or 8 tbsp) melted
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp real vanilla
  • 4 1/2 -5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 large can of poppy seed filling 32 oz or 900 grams
  • optional can of chestnut spread with some chopped chestnuts or walnuts



I bought this can of poppy seed filling several months ago from a European speciality shop and finally got around to using it in this recipe. I also found these chestnut spreads and I used the smaller can from France in the second roll. If you buy this large can of poppy seeds filling it is enough for both rolls in this recipe. If you cannot find this product there are several recipes on making poppy seed filling on the web. It is poppy seeds, sugar, orange and lemon peel.




Step 1: add milk to a heat proof measuring cup and microwave for 1 minute to warm. Add warm milk to yeast and stir in a large bowl. Leave 5 minutes to bloom yeast.



Step 2: melt butter in same measuring cup for 40 seconds in microwave. Add eggs, melted butter, salt and vanilla.Whisk to combine.



Step 3: add 4 of the five cups of flour and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add another 1/2 cup of flour to counter and continue to fold and knead dough until the dough is no longer sticky. I found the 1/2 cup was enough  (the remaining 1/2 cup is reserved for rolling out the dough – you may not use all of it depending on the humidity in your kitchen)



Step 4: cover and let dough rest 2 hours.



Step 5: slice dough into two and roll out each into a rectangular sheet (not too thin or the filling will pop) This is a lovely, soft and easy to roll dough.



Step 6: place half the can of filling on one roll and the other half on the second roll. Leave an edge around entire sheet of dough to provide a good seal.



For something different you can create a paste with nuts and honey or I used this small jar of chestnuts & a sprinkle of walnuts (silly because I had some frozen chestnuts in the freezer that would have been perfect. Try some jam and some fresh fruit or fruit and cream cheese??



Step 7: Roll up and fold ends under to seal. Sprinkle with some raw sugar. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Leave to rest another 30 minutes. Bake in a 350 degrees F oven for approximately 30-35 minutes or until browned.



Let cool and slice. Can be wrapped and stored at room temperature for a few days and it is still delicious the next day.














Pistachio Pesto


This is a fresh pesto made with pistachios, basil, parsley and Parmesano Reggiano tossed over spaghetti. Makes a lovely lunch or dinner and if you have extra freezes well for another meal. You can try making  pestos with all different nuts and fresh greens.


You will need:


  • dry spaghetti – cooked al dente according to package.
  • a big handful of fresh basil
  • a big handful of fresh parsley
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
  • 3/4 cup – 1 cup excellent quality extra virgin olive oil – I used an Italian Titone
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano-more for serving
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • reserve at least 1/2 cup starchy pasta water before draining pasta

This recipe is good for 1 box of pasta to serve 4 servings (or 6 appetizers portions) I cooked half a box and saved some to freeze for later



Step 1: start with good ingredients. The list is small and the recipe is uncomplicated however, the quality of the oil, the cheese and pasta are important because they are the stars here.


Start by boiling salted water in a large pot for spaghetti.



Step 2: in a food processor add basil, parsley, pistachios and garlic. Puree until chopped finely.



Step 3: pour in olive oil and mix until pureed and smooth (don’t go too far – it should have small pieces of nuts still visible)



Step 4: place in a large bowl and add Parmesan and mix. Taste it and add salt and pepper as you like it. If it is too dry add more oil. I removed about half to freeze and left half to toss with my spaghetti for 2 servings. If you are cooking for 4 you will probably use a full box of pasta and all the pesto.



If you are freezing some place in a plastic container and add a bit more oil and a small sheet of wax paper directly on top to keep the pesto a nice bright green colour.



Step 5: add the hot drained pasta to the bowl with the pesto on the bottom and toss. Add some of your reserved pasta water to loosen sauce and thin out if it is too thick. Mix and serve.



Top with fresh grated Parmesan and serve immediately.









Nutty Granola


Granola is so easy to make why would you ever buy it. Pick all the things you like and use it in pancakes or just simply with fruit and yogurt.


You will need:


  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup almonds (whole or chopped)
  • 1 cup hazelnuts/filberts
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup chopped dried fruit (I used cranberries and figs)




Step 1: add all ingredients except the dried fruit. Toss to coat and bake in 325 degree F oven for  15 – 20 minutes. Stir and rotate pan every 5 minutes until lightly browned.



Step 2: chop any dried fruit you want to add.



Let cool 5 minutes, scrape pan and cool completely. Add your dried fruit and use or store in a sealed container.




store in an airtight container and if you are not using within a week store in the freezer to preserve the freshness of the nuts. Use on top of fruit and yogurt drizzled with more honey or try some in your next batch of pancakes. Hello breakfast!







Fruit and Ricotta Crostini



I love these for a breakfast or lunch. You can use a larger Italian bread sliced for larger pieces or simply as I have with a French baguette. I lightly toast these in a toaster or pan and spread on some creamy ricotta cheese, place a few pieces of soft fruit and drizzle with honey. Simple and delish!


You will need:


  • some slices of bread (French baguette or Italian bread or any rustic country type bread)
  • some soft fruit like pears, strawberries, raspberries or figs etc…
  • ricotta cheese
  • honey
  • optional: add some nuts like walnuts or pecans


Step 1: slice some bread and toast it lightly


Step 2: slice some fruit like pears, strawberries or figs



Assemble: bread, cheese, fruit. honey, nuts… a big mug of hot tea and EAT!





Orange Honey Baklava

The other day Big Pete asked me to make my Baklava for him. He is normally a chocolate cake or cookie man but, the Greek side of him was craving this Baklava. I have had other people beg me for this baklava. It’s got a wonderful sweet orange flavour which complements the pistachio and almond flavour. This is a show stopper people will be shocked at how good it is and that you actually made it from scratch.
 Try it once and I promise you will make it again.

You will need:

  • 1 box phyllo dough -contains 24 sheets – thawed
  • 1 lb/454 grams unsalted shelled pistachios or raw almonds or BOTH
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 stick (=1/2 cup) unsalted butter-melted with 1/4 cup olive oil added to it.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp orange extract (optional) 
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup orange juiced (fresh)

  • *glass Pyrex dish wide enough to fit a sheet of phyllo width 3 qt size or a 9 x13 inch baking pan.

Thaw the phyllo in fridge for a few hours then leave in box on counter 1 hour before working with it.

Step 1: weigh your nuts. You can use almonds or pistachios or both. I have used equal amounts of both.
Step 2: add your nuts, sugar, cinnamon  and cardamon to the food processor. Pulse 10 seconds or until you get mix with some pieces no larger than small peas.
Step 3: melt 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter and add 1/4 cup olive oil to top off. I do this in a glass measuring cup in the microwave for 30 seconds. I like to add a bit of olive oil instead of just using all of it butter. You may not use all of the butter when brushing sheets.
Step 4: I use a Pyrex dish rather than a metal dish because I find it easier to cut the squares in the pan. I never worry about the pan with glass. I wish my pan had straight edges rather than curved but, I would still rather use the glass for ease of cutting. I brush a bit of butter on the bottom and sides of the pan. I like this pan because it is the size of one sheets of phyllo folded in half.
Step 5: I divide the total number of sheets in the package in 3 piles for each layer. My box of phyllo has 24 sheets so I use 8 sheets per layer. I put down half a sheet and brush a layer of butter on the phyllo (do not soak the sheet) then I fold over the balance of the first sheet and brush that with butter. I keep doing half a sheet at a time buttering each half until I use 8 sheets. I also alternate which side the fold goes on so that it is even. The folds on both sides make the baklava balanced.

Step 6: add half the nut, sugar mixture. Spread evenly.
Step 7: add 8 more sheets with butter between each half like you did in Step 5.
Step 8: add balance of nut, sugar mixture (reserve 2 tbsp to sprinkle on top)
Step 9: add final 8 sheets with butter between each half as you did in Step 5. Once you are finished you will have 3 layers of phyllo and 2 layers of nuts.
Step 10: put pan in freezer for 30 minutes to make it easier to cut before baking.
Step 11: with a sharp knife and trying not to press on the phyllo too much slice diamonds. This will make nice clean cuts since you cannot cut the phyllo once it’s baked and cutting it will also allow the syrup to go down to the bottom once its baked.
Step 12: bake at 350 degrees F for 35 – 45 minutes. Mine bakes at exactly 35 minutes.
Step 13: just before the baklava finishes baking make the orange honey syrup which will be poured on the baklava immediately once it comes out of the oven.  I zest the orange and squeeze the juice. I top off the juice with water to make the 2/3 cup. Add juice, zest , sugar, and honey to pan and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add orange extract if you have it (it’s not critical if you don’t have it)
Step 14: once the baklava is nicely browned remove from oven and carefully and slowly pour the syrup so that each slice is covered. You may think there is too much liquid but it will all get absorbed into the hot baklava. When you are pouring it over the hot baklava it will sizzle and bubble. Let cool. You will then need to carefully re-cut all slices to remove diamonds from pan.
This is a sticky gorgeous, decadent dessert. People will be shocked at how good it is and that you made it from scratch!! I am not kidding you. Try it once!!