Wintermint Test

My fellow Baked Sunday Morning members are making this glorious Wintermint Cake today, and it’s so perfect for the season. It’s three layers of rich chocolate cake, stacked up with peppermint chocolate ganache and peppermint buttercream. Can’t you just picture eating a lovely slice with a cup of hot chocolate, or coffee spiked with Bailey’s, after your Christmas dinner, while snow falls softly outside your window?

But I didn’t make this cake this weekend. Oh no. I made it on a hot, humid, sweltering afternoon in the middle of August in 2013 with my air conditioning blasting. This was one of the recipes I tested for Baked Occasions! Instead of making it again, I thought I would just reflect back on my testing experience. (Update: I totally should have made it again! Check out Christine just whipping one up the day after her holiday party because she forgot to take pictures! She’s my hero!)

Wintermint Cake

I revisited the notes I provided while testing, and compared them to the recipe as printed in the book. I thought it was kind of fun how I wrote that I found that the peppermint flavour of the buttercream was very subtle, and the Baked boys added a note in the book that the cake is “pepperminty, but not overly so; we prefer subtle peppermint flavor” and then mention that you can add a touch more extract for more intense peppermint-iness.

My own personal learning experience was to NOT spread the peppermint ganache right to the edges of the cake, because it can end up getting swirled into your crumb coat, like so:


Finally, when the recipe was sent to me for testing, it did not yet include the instructions for ombre frosting that appear in the book. I’m not sure if I would have been brave enough to attempt it anyway, but make sure you check out my fellow BSMers who had great success with this technique!

I can’t stress enough how amazing this cake is! It was by far my favourite of the recipes I tested for the book, and if your family likes chocolate and mint, this is a must make over the holidays!

You can find the recipe here!

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!


Espresso & Hazelnut Biscotti

I had a lot of fun participating in the The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap last year, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it again this December. I knew I would be preparing for a trip to NYC the week of the shipping deadline, plus trying to get a head start on my own cookie baking for my Christmas Party, and let’s be real, it stressed me out last time. It’s a lot of pressure to bake for other bloggers, plus think about how things will ship, and make sure you get everything out on time. Despite all that, I signed up, reminding myself of a few key lessons learned from last year:

  1. Test the cookie in advance.
  2. Don’t leave everything to the last minute.
  3. This is supposed to be FUN!

I took my own advice and everything went so much more smoothly this year. I chose this Espresso & Hazelnut Biscotti because I made a batch last month for my former boss, and received an email from him declaring it THE BEST BISCOTTI EVER so I was sure it would be a hit (also: the recipe is from The Messy Baker Cookbook, which we all know is amazing). Biscotti is also great for shipping, which I realized after receiving Gingerbread Biscotti in the swap last year from Cheri.  I actually had everything baked, packaged and shipped two whole days prior to the deadline, and didn’t take the whole so seriously this year. I shipped my packages to Claude in Winnipeg, Sarah in Calgary &  Laura in Ottawa, and waited for the Instagrams to roll in.

In return, I received these cookie packages:

Ginger Molasses Cookies from Sylvie (Sylvie Isabelle) in Quebec:

From Sylvie

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie Butter Cookies from Carole (The Yum Yum Factor) in Toronto:

From Carole

Ancho Chili Chocolate Cookies from Bernice (Dish ‘N’ The Kitchen) in Calgary:

From Bernice

Espresso & Hazelnut Biscotti

Source: Slightly adapted from The Messy Baker Cookbook, only because I left out the orange zest and cinnamon


1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 tbsp vanilla

2 3/4 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tbsp espresso powder

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed, and roughly chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.
  3. Stir in the flour, baking powder and espresso powder and mix until just combined. Add in the chocolate chips and hazelnuts and stir again until incorporated.
  4. Split the dough in half and shape each half into a log, aiming for 12″ long and 1″ high. Bake for 25-35 minutes, then remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325.
  5. Put the logs on a cutting board and use a sharp serrated knife to cut the lots into 1/2″ slices. Place the cookies cut side down on the baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes. Flip them over and bake for 5-10 minutes more.


Peanut Butter & Honey Granola

This week we’re celebrating another amazing cookbook, and this one is all about entertaining at home. Gatherings by Jan Scott and Julie Van Rosendaal is subtitled “Bringing People Together with Food”, and I love everything that stands for.

My obsession with Julie runs deep, and is currently in its 5th year. Ever since she changed my life by teaching me how to make small batches of jam in a skillet, I’ve been in love. When she had A Pie Party at her house in Calgary in the summer of 2011, I begged my friend Danielle to drive over to take part, since I unfortunately live a few provinces away. I finally got to meet Julie at the Food Bloggers of Canada conference last year, and she was just as warm, friendly, funny and down-to-earth as she is on her blog.

I heard Jan speak on a panel at the same conference, and have been obsessed with her blog, Family Bites, ever since.  I love her approach to entertaining, and have tried to incorporate some of her ideas at my own family parties over the past year or so. (You should have seen me try to convince my Mom we needed a Toppings Bar at a casual family barbecue in my parents backyard last summer. Mom: “We have ketchup and mustard, what else do we need?” Classic. Love you Mom!) I’m also fascinated by Jan’s posts on feeding her two teenage boys, and send them to my friends Lydia and Heather (who each have two little guys) with captions like: THIS IS YOUR FUTURE.

The common thread between these two inspiring ladies, is what I like to call ‘low-stakes entertaining’. You don’t have to bust out fancy china, or make sure your house is impeccably clean, or cook an eight course meal: people just want to come over for some good food, good laughs, and good company. This philosophy is captured perfectly in Jan & Julie’s new book.

Gatherings Book

The ladies are trying to take the stress out of having people over, and the book is crammed with amazing ideas. You have your seasonal Gatherings (backyard barbecue, holiday open house), family Gatherings (kid’s birthday party, Sunday supper) plus some awesome ideas for Gathering just for fun (the previously mentioned Pie Party, retro game night, BEER TASTING!).

One of the sections that caught my eye was how to host a Pantry Party. The idea behind it is that you get together with your friends to swap homemade food to stock your cupboards. This is genius for someone such as myself, who doesn’t can, but is always stealing jars of pickles and jams from my blogging friends. But what could I contribute to a Pantry Party if I don’t can? Jan and Julie have me covered with this recipe for Clumpy Peanut Butter & Honey Granola, pictured up top. It’s quick and easy to make in a big batch, and looks so cute when packaged up in a mason jar. You can find the recipe on Page 70 of Gatherings or on Julie’s blog here.

Back in February, I was inspired by the Js to make a blog resolution to host more Gatherings at home, and I definitely didn’t achieve this on the scale I had in mind. I feel like I’ll have the same goal when I come up on 5 years of blogging this year. Now that I have this book, I have endless inspiration to put my home entertaining plans into action!

Make sure you check out all the other Gatherings posts, which are happening all week long! (I’ll be updating as we go!)


  • Mardi made Spiced Mulled Wine + wrote about her top tips for entertaining + a GIVEAWAY {eat. live. travel. write.}
  • Mairlyn chose Gatherings as one of her top new Canadian cookbook picks {Mairlyn Smith}
  • Charmian made Bourbon Blondies with Pecans & Chocolate Chunks {The Messy Baker}





Disclaimer: Mardi organized this party, and I was sent a copy of the book from the publisher, but it was on my Christmas List for Santa to bring me anyway!


Date Squares

Date Squares hold an extra special place in my heart as my Aunt Joan makes the best ones in the world. I’ve only ever eaten the ones she makes, and haven’t had them in about 10 years, but I refuse to eat any others so I don’t muddle my memory of hers. Until now!

For those out there who don’t have a beloved Aunt who is known for her Date Squares, this is what they are: a buttery oat mixture, half of which is pressed into a pan to make the crust, topped with a soft, sweet, cooked date mixture, with the rest of the oat mixture crumbled over top.  The recipe couldn’t be easier to mix up, and if you use your food processor to chop the dates, as I did, it makes the whole process even easier.

I thought it would be a fun social experiment to make the Baked boys version, and bring them to work to see what would happen. I feel like Date Squares are one of those things that people think they don’t like, until they try them, and realize they’re delicious. And that’s exactly what happened! I heard a lot of: “I love these, and I don’t even like dates!”.

How did they hold up to Aunt Joan’s? They were a bit thinner, but the taste was on point. I should really find her recipe to add it to the Planet Byn archives!

You can find the recipe here!

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!


November on Planet Byn {2014}

by byn on November 30, 2014

in Monthly Recaps

Baking Day

I usually find November a pretty chill month after everything going on in October, and this year was no exception. Lots of family time, friends time, baking time, and almost all of my Christmas shopping is done! Here’s what else was happening:    

  • Let’s start off with a confession: I love Lone Star. Seriously, they have THE BEST tortillas EVER. I thought this tweet summed it up perfectly, as Kristine and I just had a catch-up dinner there at the beginning of this month. You know what? I won’t be ashamed to Instagram my visits to Lone Star anymore!
  • My brother and his kids came over to hang out, and my niece and nephew had fun mixing up a batch of Blondies. They basically wanted to add everything to them, so we threw in chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, caramel filled chips, sprinkles, and topped it with some marshmallows in a happy face. They were so good, and an easy recipe to make with kids (we just had to add an extra egg so each one of them could have a turn cracking one!).
  • There were a big bunch of freckle-y bananas on my counter, so I made Joy’s Bourbon Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. I forgot how good it is.
  • I had dinner with my friend Jenn at Speakeasy 21, a relatively new bar/restaurant in the financial district. They have lots of little snacks and apps for sharing, and I wanted to try them all. We narrowed it down to: Potato & Cheddar Pierogies, Black Bean Taquitos, Butter Chicken Meatballs and a Kale Caesar Salad. We loved everything! So much so, that I went back the next day for lunch with my friend Janelle, and we had the Pierogies, the Popcorn Crusted Chicken and the Kale Caesar. Loved everything again! I was just looking at the menu and it looks like they’ve added some new things. If anyone wants to meet me for lunch there, let me know!
  • Nicole came over for our 5th Annual Christmas Baking Day (pictured above) and we made one of our usuals, Buckeyes, but switched it up with some new things for Nicole’s party this year. She selected a few Champagne & Cookie All-Stars, plus we made a big pan of Hello Dollies, my #1 treat of all time.
  • There were a bunch of birthdays in my office last week, and after careful research, I made the following treats for my co-workers: Cinnamon Blondies (I didn’t like these, but the birthday girl loved them), Anna Olson’s Chocolate Chip Cookies (seriously the best), and Charmian’s Homemade Oreos from The Messy Baker book (KILLER!!! People were VERY perplexed, “I’ve never even heard of homemade Oreos before!”).
  • I know I don’t usually do re-runs here on my monthly recaps, but if I don’t mention these places, I’ll have nothing to write about this month. Here are some of my regulars: The Gabardine for a birthday lunch with Molly & Ali (favourite lunch ever is their grilled cheese), Bannock for lunch with my former boss (I brought him biscotti; he misses me), El Catrin for a co-worker’s birthday dinner (love the Zarzamora cocktail!), and Drake 150 for the same co-worker’s birthday lunch (BURGER!).

If you haven’t entered our Butter Baked Goods Giveaway, make sure to head over to this post for your chance to win!

Other non-foodie things I was obsessed with this month:

  • I went to see URSHER at the beginning of the month and it was like having my whole life reflected back to me in song! *swoon*
  • Book Club reconvened over nachos to discuss I’ll Give You The Sun. Some mixed reviews, but I think the general consensus was that it started off slowly, and got better by the end. I personally LOVED it, and am excited to read Jandy Nelson’s first book, The Sky is Everywhere. Next up for the club is Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. I also read Johnathon Troppers One Last Thing Before I Go (since I liked This Is Where I Leave You so much) and it was super funny, sad, and heartwarming all at the same time. Loved it.
  • Alexis, Kristine and I went to the Raptors game last Friday and we met JALEN ROSE! This is a big deal for me as I listen to his podcast on Grantland every week, and he makes me laugh so hard. I asked Jalen where his bat was, and he told me it didn’t make it through customs! Amazing!


The Dream Slice

Today we’re celebrating Butter Baked Goods! If you read my October recap, you know that I spent my birthday afternoon with my blogging friends at Butter in Vancouver, and I basically wanted to move into the store. It was so cute and cozy, from the pretty rose wallpaper to the big display cases of treats, and I fell in love right away.  I explained to my friend Danielle that this was our style of bakery – nothing trendy (I mean that in the best possible way), no red velvet, and only the most delicious, classic desserts.

Butter Baked Goods

We even got to chat with the owner of  Butter, Rosie Daykin, and she was so incredibly nice and sweet! She started off as a home baker, which I love, and just poured her heart and soul into Butter to make her dream come true. She even has the best little office tucked away in a corner of the shoppe! Check out the sign on her door:

Rosie's Office

To get this party started, we all made recipes from the Butter Baked Goods cookbook and my choice was The Dream Slice. I have a sincere, deep love for bars and squares, and they would always be my first choice on dessert table (Exhibit A). I chose The Dream Slice as Rosie writes in the book that it’s her bestselling bar, and it also reminded me of a bar from my childhood that my Mom’s friend made. This is a three layer wonder with a shortbread base, a filling of maraschino cherries, walnuts and coconut, and topped with a simple buttercream frosting.  It’s surprisingly not too sweet, and would be a great addition to your Christmas baking schedule. You can find the recipe on Page 102 of the Butter cookbook.

And now, sound the alarm, because it’s time for the first GIVEAWAY ever on Planet Byn!!!

Butter Collage

When we were at the store, Jenny spoke to Rosie about her love for the Butter cookbook, and she was 100% on board with Jenny’s idea for today’s GIVEAWAY! So here’s what you can WIN: a signed, personalized copy of Rosie’s book, plus a whole box of treats from Butter Baked Goods! Trust me when I say these treats are amazing, as I ate the following from the store: Chocolate Birthday Cake, Hello Dolly, Campfire Square, Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookie, and Vanilla Cupcake. You’re going to love it! Just leave a comment telling me what your favourite holiday treat is, and then fill out the Rafflecopter thingy to enter (start by filling in your name and email address). You can gain even more entries by following the gang on various forms of social media, but that part is optional.

This giveaway is open to anyone in Canada and the US, and will run until Wednesday, December 3rd. Good luck!

Make sure you check out what these other Butter Baked Bloggers made today!


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Campfire Cookies

It’s my first Baked Sunday Morning from Baked Occasions! Yay! The group actually started a couple weeks ago with these Election Palmiers, but I didn’t really feel like making my own puff pastry, plus I just knew that a S’MORES recipe would be the perfect place for me to start (evidence here).

These cookies are basically a chewy brown sugar cookie base, studded with graham cracker chunks, chocolate chips and mini marshmallows. I used milk chocolate chips of course, for that classic s’mores flavour profile, but you could definitely use semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips for more contrast. Of course some of my marshmallows exploded out the sides of the cookies, but it didn’t affect the taste, and my #1 s’mores recipe taster just loved them. There’s a bit of honey in the dough as well, and I think it contributed to the chewy factor of these cookies.

Baked Occasions is set up to match the calendar year and corresponding holidays, but I don’t think our baking schedule for BSM will match up perfectly. In this case, they do, as the Campfire Cookie is in the 12 Days of Cookies interlude in the book for the Christmas holidays. Some people might be perplexed to see a summery treat in the dead of winter, but I like s’moresy things year round, so I’m on board with this.

You can find the recipe here!

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!


Deb’s Mom’s Apple Cake

by byn on November 17, 2014

in Cakes, Cupcakes & Icing

Deb's Mom's Apple Cake

When I returned from my various travels at the end of October, I still had a crisper full of Empire apples from my trip to Chudleigh’s. I didn’t feel like making apple butter, but needed another recipe that would use up the rest of my beauties before they started to take a turn. I immediately thought of this cake from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and had my Mom unearth her tube pan from the dark abyss of her corner cabinet. I don’t think this thing has seen the light of day in like 20 years (love you Mom! hahaha).

To make this cake, you whisk up a simple cake batter and layer it up with 3 lbs of chopped apples that you’ve tossed with cinnamon and sugar. It couldn’t have been easier to mix up, but be warned that it has a 90 minute bake time, and then needs to cool completely in the pan before you turn it out.

Apple Slice

Deb writes in her book that this is the type of cake that only gets better as time goes by, and I can attest to that, as I had a slice as my after work snack every day for almost a week. It is super hydrated and lovely and I love the apples on top and tucked inside. I sliced and packed up the rest of the cake for some friends and they loved it too!

Shouts outs to Danielle for my new cake platter she sent me for my birthday!!! It’s going to be in every picture from now on!

Deb’s Mom’s Apple Cake

Source: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, but the recipe is also on her website here



3 lbs apples, peeled, cored and diced into approx. 1/2″ pieces (I used Empire apples)

5 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp cinnamon


1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

1/4 cup orange juice

2 1/2 tsp vanilla

4 eggs

2 3/4 cups flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 and spray the heck out of a tube pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss the apple chunks with the sugar and cinnamon and set aside.
  3. For the cake, whisk together the oil, sugar, orange juice, vanilla and eggs.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder and salt, and whisk again until no dry bits remain.
  5. Pour half the batter into the tube pan, and top with half of the apples. Spread the remaining batter over top, and top with the rest of the apples.
  6. Bake for 90 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely in the pan, and then turn out onto a plate or platter.


Cheesy Butternut Squash Rigatoni

by byn on November 4, 2014

in Pasta & Noodles

Cheesy Butternut Squash Rigatoni

You know this thing the kids say these days – “pics or it didn’t happen”? On Planet Byn it’s like “blog or you didn’t eat it”. I swear, if I don’t blog about something I made, even if I LOVED it, I will promptly forget that it ever existed. I have made this pasta dish three Falls in a row, and somehow it’s never made it into a post, but this grave injustice is being rectified as of now.

This recipe starts with a basic white sauce, which then gets spiked with fresh sage, pureed butternut squash, lots of parmesan, and a bit of cheddar. It’s thick, creamy, earthy from the sage, and 100% delicious. The original recipe has you toss cooked rigatoni with the sauce, and then bake it with more cheddar on top, but when I did that last year I found that it wasn’t as nearly as creamy after baking, so I’ve modified the instructions just a bit below.

The first couple of times I made this I roasted and pureed an entire butternut squash, and froze what I didn’t need for this recipe. Seeing as how I just located last year’s leftover puree in a freezer burn covered corner of my freezer, I’ve also modified the recipe so you can just roast what you need (i.e. buy one of those little packages of squash chunks at the grocery store instead of buying a whole squash).

I’m so happy to add this to my archives. See you in 2015, rigatoni!

Cheesy Butternut Squash Rigatoni

Source: slightly adapted from Simply Scratch

Yield: about 3-4 servings


1 1/2 cups diced butternut squash (about 1/2″ chunks)

1 tsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1 clove garlic, grated with a microplane grater

4-5 sage leaves, finely chopped

1 1/2 tbsp flour

1 1/2 tbsp butter

1/2 cup chicken stock

3/4 cup half & half cream (I actually used equal amounts half & half + 2% milk)

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 tbsp grated cheddar cheese

+ cooked rigatoni


  1. First up, you need to make your butternut squash puree, so preheat the oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the butternut squash with the olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper, and roast until soft, about 30 minutes, turning halfway through. Add to a food processor, and process until smooth.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, and add the onion and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes until the onion is soft, then add the sage and saute for a minute.
  3. Add the additional butter, and once it melts, add the flour. Stir for a minute then whisk in the chicken stock and cream. Bring to a bubble, and once thickened, reduce the heat to medium low, and stir in the butternut squash puree and cheeses. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. The sauce will be quite thick and deliciously creamy.
  4. Serve with cooked rigatoni. If you have leftover sauce, store separately from pasta, and reheat over low heat.


Birthday CakeOctober is always a packed month for me, with Thanksgiving, my birthday and Halloween, plus this month I had trips to NYC & Vancouver in the mix as well, so there was a lot going on. Besides my favourite baking project of the year, I didn’t get up to that much while I was in town, so I decided to combine my monthly recap with my Vancouver Eats for your reading enjoyment:

  • First of all, I found out my co-worker HATES PEANUT BUTTER one year after making him these as a thank you for helping me with something. This distressed me to no end, so of course I found out what his actual favourite cookies are and made him these amazing Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. This recipe is incredible, I highly recommend it for thick, chewy oatmeal cookies, with chocolate chips, not raisins, as nature intended.
  • I didn’t contribute anything besides my birthday cake to Thanksgiving dinner, as it fell between my trips, and I didn’t have much time to prepare. But! I did cook up a batch of Carole’s amazing Chorizo Beer Chili, which is boozy and hearty, and makes delicious chili fries if you have leftovers. It’s a keeper.
  • I traveled to Vancouver for FBC2014 (separate blog post to come), but went a couple of days early to hang out and celebrate my BIRTHDAY. Here’s what we got up to…
  • Jenny & I were starving when we touched down in Vancouver, and made our way over to Relish Gastropub near our hotel to meet Heather and grab a bite. We followed that up with a trip to Cartems Donuterie where the Pumpkin Cheesecake Stuffie Donut rocked my world. This was a yeast donut filled with a pumpkin cream cheese mixture topped with vanilla icing and some sort of crumble topping. YES.
  • Oh my birthday there was only one place I really wanted to go: Butter Baked Goods. My dream came true as my friends and I headed over there, and they surprised me with a chocolate cake (pictured above) that was out-of-this-world. I also picked up a Hello Dolly, Campfire Square, Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookie and Vanilla Cupcake to take back to the hotel, plus some Vanilla Marshmallows and packaged S’mores to take home. This little bakery is just the cutest shoppe (more posh if you put the extra –pe on the end) and we got to meet the owner, Rosie, and she could not have been nicer. I’m in love.
  • My birthday dinner was at Fable, owned by your old friend Trevor from Top Chef Canada Season 2. We had some amazing cocktails and house made bread to start, and the chickpea fritters with pickled red onion and curry mayo. My main was a ricotta gnocchi with pulled pork, pesto, burnt onion powder and some other delicious components I can’t recall. My dessert was an aerated white chocolate pudding (therefore…mousse?) with homemade cocoa cookie crumbles. Everything was great, the service was amazing, and the space was so cozy and welcoming. Shout-outs to my food blogger rock stars for making my day so special.

Other non-foodie things I was obsessed with this month:

  • I went to see Gone Girl the night it opened, and thought it was really well done. Creepy and unsettling and messed up, just like the book. So glad Reese Witherspoon stayed as the producer and decided not to star in it; Rosamund Pike was perfect as Amy.
  • Lena Dunham made a stop in Toronto for her book tour, and I went to see her interviewed at the Toronto Reference Library. I thought her book was just okay, but enjoyed listening to her speak. She has so many interesting opinions on life, success, friendships and feminism. As my friend Nicole said, I could have listened to her for hours.
  • In Vancouver, we happened to meet the lovely Linnie von Sky, a children’s book author, while we were shopping on our first afternoon in town. She instantly became our friend and came with us to eat donuts, introduced us to her husband, and ended up having us over for brunch to her adorable home. I spotted Baked Elements on her bookshelf and explained how I had just been in New York the week before with the authors of that book, at the grand opening of their new bakery. It was one of those weird serendipitous encounters that sometimes happens in life, and I still smile whenever I think of Linnie.