Purple House Cafe Birthday Week: A Year in Review

Happy Birthday to MEEEE!!!!

And, incidentally, happy birthday week to Purple House Cafe!

Yup, I will have been cooking and writing and baking and typing and tweeting and facebooking and pinning from this little corner of the internet for a year on Thursday.  So much has happened in a year.  First of all, my photography got a bit better. 


This is a beet salad.  Please, whatever you do, don't Pin this, delicious though it may be....

This is a beet salad. Please, whatever you do, don’t Pin this, delicious though it may be….


Recipe to follow tomorrow!

Recipe to follow later in the week!

The biggest changes to my photos happened after I took an amazing food photography class from the talented food photographer and stylist Beth Dunham.

I became a member of Halifax Food Bloggers, and entered some cool contests where I got to make these doughnuts, some nachos, and some scones and jam.

HFXFB badgeI published 138 recipes.  And recently, a lot of those have been originals.

I collaborated with Kelly Neil and Cait Redmand on this article in Eat In Eat Out Magazine.  I also contributed a couple of original recipes to an ebook, coming out soon!

I started doing some food writing for Local Connections Halifax, beginning with a really fun article on Local Tasting Tours.  And, of course, I guest blogged for Taste of Nova Scotia throughout the year.  This afforded me the opportunity to attend all kinds of fun hullabaloos, including Halifax Gold Medal Plates:

Gold Medal Plates | www.purplehousecafe.com

I had some pretty popular posts,  including these pumpkin spice latte popsicles that pretty much went viral:

Pumpkin Spice Latte Popsicles | www.purplehousecafe.com

For a while there I thought these lovely little ‘sicles were going to be the Mmmbop of Purple House Cafe – you know, the recipe that was incredibly popular and that, five years from now, I will be wishing I’d never created…

I met some pretty fab internet friends (and feel not-too-loserish for saying that I have internet friends), including Lan, at More Stomach, and Movita Beaucoup.  I got to meet some of the bloggers whose recipes, photographs and writing I drool over too, like Bryan of The Bite House, and Nicholetta, whose brilliant blog, Pepper + Paint, you must check out.

And there’s some really exciting things on the horizon, too. 

For one, I’ve been asked to be a regular contributor to The Creative Mama, a visually-stunning, photography and creativity-focused blog for likeminded mamas.  I’m really excited to be a part of this team, and I hope you will all join me over there too!

logo_1363232734There’s this other big project I’m working on too.  It’s so exciting and terrifying and up-in-the-air and stuff-that-dreams-are-made-of that I really just can’t tell you what it is right now.  But I will.  Oh, I will.

For now, I hope you enjoy journeying through the coming year with me, starting with a solid week of celebratory recipes and round-ups!

Thank-you for reading, thank-you for commenting, and thank-you for coming back for more. 

White Chocolate Star Anise Biscuits with Vanilla Rooibos Jelly

I’m at it again:  because I’m highly competitive, because I am nurturing a newfound love for recipe development, because awesome local producers keep partnering up with the Halifax Food Bloggers group to offer wicked contests with incredible prizes.  

This September, East Coast Organic Milk and Just Us! Coffee (home of my nearly-daily soy mocha/Made With Local bar run) have teamed up to create a Brown Bag Recipe Challenge for us Halifax Food Bloggers.  A couple weeks ago, I picked up a brown bag filled with mystery ingredients at my local Just Us! coffeehouse.  I hunched over it, cradled in my arms, as the driving late summer rain threatened to dissolve the bag and who-knows-what inside.  When I got to my car I tore open the bag and found a tin of Just Us! Vanilla Rooibos tea, a couple bars of Just Us! white chocolate, a bag of Just Us! organic cane sugar, and a 2L container of East Coast Organic whole milk.

And I knew this contest was going to be right up my alley.

Keep reading for what I made, the recipe, and most importantly – how you, dear readers, can help me win this one!

Recipe Contest | www.purplehousecafe.com Continue reading

Turkey Fennel Sausage, Caramelized Onion and Cheddar Nachos with Cherry Chutney

As many of you know, I’m a proud member of the Halifax Food Bloggers.  We’re a vibrant group of the food-obsessed, and every so often we like to engage in a little bit of friendly competition in the name of showcasing local food and producers.

Sausage Nachos with Cherry Chutney | www.purplehousecafe.com

Last time, it was all about sourcing ingredients from Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market, and these double rhubarb cream-filled doughnuts were my contribution.  Incidentally, delicious though they sound, I totally didn’t win – likely because of many people’s completely legitimate fear of extremely hot oil.  Nevertheless, these little pastries were probably one of the best things I’ve ever made.  Hence:  I suggest you brave the prospect of hot oil and give it a go.

Sausage Nachos with Cherry Chutney | www.purplehousecafe.com

This time, it’s a sausage contest.  In honour of Sausage Fest 2013, hosted by Local Connections Halifax magazine, the Halifax Food Bloggers are donning their chef’s hats and coming up with original recipes involving sausage.

Unlike my doughnut recipe, my Sausage Fest contest contribution is a simple one:  throw some chips on a cookie sheet, toss on some sausage, caramelized onion and cheese, whip up a bit of cherry chutney, and call ’em nachos. 

Sausage Nachos with Cherry Chutney | www.purplehousecafe.com

Easy, right?  

I used turkey fennel sausage from Sweet William’s Country Sausage, housed at the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market,  local goat cheddar and fresh cherries.  We ate them on a blanket spread out in the back yard, paired with mojitos muddled with mint from our garden.  

Turkey Fennel Sausages with Caramelized Onion, Cheddar and Cherry Chutney
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  1. For the nachos -
  2. 3 turkey fennel sausages
  3. 2 medium onions, diced
  4. 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  5. Cheddar cheese - amount to your preference
  6. Nacho chips - amount depending on how many people you're feeding
  7. Olive oil for sauteeing the onions
  8. For the chutney -
  9. 1 cup fresh cherries, de-stemmed and pitted
  10. Handful of fennel seeds (maybe 1/4 tsp.)
  11. 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  12. 1/4 cup water
  13. Black pepper to taste
  1. Combine all of the chutney ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until the cherries have broken down and the liquid has cooked off.
  2. Remove the sausage meat from the casing and saute in a small frying pan until fully cooked.
  3. In another frying pan, saute the onions in olive oil until they are translucent. Add the brown sugar and continue to saute until the onions are soft and deep brown in colour.
  4. Preheat your oven to 400F. Place nacho chips on a baking sheet and top with sausage, caramelized onion and then the cheese. Bake until the cheese is golden and bubbly. Serve with cherry chutney for dipping.
  5. Enjoy!
Purple House Café https://www.purplehousecafe.com/


Holding my Own with Gooey Cinnamon Squares

A couple weekends ago, I was invited to join a whole bunch of other local food bloggers for a potluck tea party meet n’ greet.  

Gooey Cinnamon Squares | www.purplehousecafe.com

Usually the thought of having the opportunity to bring food to an event gets me quite aflutter, and I immediately start scanning my mental list of Recipes I’ve Been Wanting to Try to see if anything suits the occasion.

Gooey Cinnamon Squares | www.purplehousecafe.com

Admittedly, though, the thought of bringing a dish to be shared by a bunch of hardcore foodies was a little daunting.  I have been spending a lot of time with my head in my Smitten Kitchen cookbook lately, though, and I felt like I couldn’t go wrong with one of the amazing recipes from the book.  (by the way, if you don’t own this book, you’ll need to stop reading this post and get yourself to a book store.  I have never – never – even seen let alone owned a cookbook that I wanted to cook all of the recipes from.  This is The One).

Gooey Cinnamon Squares | www.purplehousecafe.com

These gooey cinnamon squares are just beyond.  They taste like cinnamon toast if cinnamon toast were cakey on the bottom and topped with a buttery, sticky layer that resembles the centre of brownies when they’re perfect (read: sufficiently undercooked in the middle).  These squares may not have been the prettiest thing on the table, but let’s not joke around:  butter wins hearts and minds every time.

Gooey Cinnamon Squares | www.purplehousecafe.com

Gooey Cinnamon Squares
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Base layer
  1. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 1 tsp. cream of tartar
  3. 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  4. 1/4 tsp. salt
  5. 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  6. 3/4 cup sugar
  7. 1 egg
  8. 1/4 cup milk
Gooey Cinnamon Topping
  1. 1/4 cup corn syrup
  2. 1/4 cup milk
  3. 1 tbsp. vanilla
  4. 12 tbsps. butter, room temperature
  5. 1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
  6. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  7. 1 egg
  8. 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  9. 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Line a 9 X 13 baking dish with parchment paper and grease the parchment with butter.
  2. Start by making the base layer. Using electric beaters, cream the sugar and butter until the mixture is well incorporated and kind of fluffy - about 2 minutes. Add the egg and milk and beat again until the ingredients are all mixed in. Combine the rest of the dry ingredients for the base layer in a medium bowl, and then add to the wet ingredients. Spread this mixture into the baking dish.
  3. The gooey layer follows a similar method to the base layer. Cream the butter, 1 cup of the sugar and salt together using your electric beaters until they're fluffy. Beat in the egg. Whisk together the corn syrup, milk and vanilla in a separate bowl, and then add this and the flour into the wet ingredients alternately, with three additions of flour and two of the corn syrup mixture, stirring to incorporate between additions.
  4. Dollop the gooey part over the base layer and spread evenly. Combine the remaining 2 tbsp. of sugar with the cinnamon, and sprinkle over the entire mixture in the baking pan.
  5. Bake until the edges have set and started to pull away from the pan and the centre is still gooey - about 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Purple House Café https://www.purplehousecafe.com/

Rain and Rhubarb: Spring Doughnuts with Double Rhubarb White Chocolate Cream

Yesterday, as the rain pattered on my windowpanes and two little toddler feet pattered on my hardwood floors, I made some doughnuts.

I say it like it’s no big deal, and it really isn’t.  If doughnuts intimidate you, I think it’s time to swallow back your fear of vats of extremely hot oil and just let these beauties into your life.  The vanilla-scented sugar crystals melting on your tongue while rhubarb cream dribbles down your chin will reward you for your efforts.

Double Rhubarb White Chocolate filled doughnuts | www.purplehousecafe.com

Let me show you how easy gourmet doughnuttery can be.  You’ll thank me:  because these doughnuts paired with a pink sparkly wine on a rainy day will bring a smile to your face, and because gourmet doughnuts are totally the next big thing.


But first!

I had visited my my local Farmer’s Market – the Halifax Seaport Market – on Saturday because a) I usually do and b) there’s a contest, you see.  The Halifax Food Bloggers are participating in a contest this month to create an original recipe using primarily ingredients sourced from the Seaport Market (the only exceptions being things like flour, yeast, oil, and some seasonings).  I went in search of inspiration, with some pre-conceived notions in my head about maybe some ground lamb for Greek-inspired nachos, my little recipe generator, whom I affectionately anthropomorphize as a mouse on a wheel (can you anthropomorphize something as a mouse?) toiling away, fantasizing about new flavour combinations, often (and my hubby will attest) in the middle of the night, or during important conversations.  And in the shower.

But I digress.

I left the market with a basket not full of ground lamb but of the first rhubarb of the spring from Noggins Corner Farm; a bottle of Ironworks Distillery Rhubarb Esprit liqueur; barley flour, raw sugar and vanilla beans from The Grainery Food Co-op, white chocolate from Gourmandises Avenue Chocolaterie; and eggs and goat milk from Ran-Cher Acres.  And, of course, a bottle of Benjamin Bridge’s Nova 7 sparkling wine to go with.  Because who says doughnuts need to go with coffee?



Double rhubarb white chocolate cream filled doughnuts, fried ever so briefly to give them a little bite and deep golden colour, and then tossed in vanilla bean-scented sugar.  From ingredients that you can find at the local farmer’s market – which means that they taste even better because they support local business.

Are you sufficiently motivated to make doughnuts with me now?

These little babies require about a total of an hour of hands-on time.  I managed it while entertaining a 16 month old and washing a gargantuan pile of dishes.  You can do it too!  Because they’re yeasted doughnuts, mostly they require you waiting around for them to rise.  The pastry cream is a little high maintenance, but oh-so-worth-it.  Just pour yourself a glass of that sparkling, pull a stool up to the stove and get lost in the stirring.  It’s like kitchen meditation, and I highly recommend it.

Here’s what you need:

For the doughnuts –

  • 2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp. warm water
  • 1 3/4 cups barley flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour
  • 1 cup whole milk at room temperature (I used goat milk)
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • ~6 cups vegetable oil for frying

For the pastry cream –

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup whole milk (I used goat milk)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chunks
  • 2 tbsp. butter

For the rhubarb – 

  • ~3 stalks of rhubarb (approximately 1-1.5 cups)
  • Water
  • 1/4 cup sugar (more if you dislike rhubarb’s tartness)
  • 2 tbsp. rhubarb liquor

For the vanilla sugar –

  • 1 1/3 cup raw sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean

Here’s what you do:

For the doughnuts – 

I think it makes sense to start the doughnuts first – that way you can make the stewed rhubarb and pastry cream while they rise.  But, by all means, you can make the rhubarb and pastry cream the night before.

Add the yeast to the warm water in a large bowl and allow the yeast to proof (to foam up) for about five minutes.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients, forming a shaggy dough.  Use your hands to fully incorporate the ingredients  – don’t knead, just make sure you end up with a uniform ball of dough.  It will be a little sticky.  You can add a bit more flour if it’s too sticky to handle.

Dust the dough with some flour, cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1.5-2 hours.  Now’s a good time to get busy with the pastry cream and the rhubarb.

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured countertop and roll into a 1/2″ thick disc using a floured rolling pin.  Using a glass or a cookie cutter, cut circles ~3″ in diameter.  Note:  if you re-roll the scrap dough to make more doughnuts, these will turn out a little “tougher.”  And uglier.  But still tasty.  Go for it!


Place the circles on a flour-dusted cookie sheet, cover with a dish towel and set aside to rise again for 30 minutes.

*See below for frying instructions, and how to bring it all together!

For the rhubarb – 

Roughly chop the rhubarb and throw it into a sauce pan with the sugar.  Add enough water to not quite cover the rhubarb.  Place the mixture over medium heat and allow to simmer until the rhubarb has disintegrated and much of the liquid is cooked off.  Stir in the rhubarb liquor and allow to cool and before adding to the pastry cream.

For the pastry cream – 

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar, stirring them for a few seconds until they are well combined and slightly lighter in colour.  Whisk in the flour and salt.  Now whisk the milk in, ensuring that you incorporate it in small increments to avoid creating lumps.

Place the saucepan over medium heat and stir nearly continuously until the cream begins to thicken.  When bubbles start to steam up in the cream and it achieves the consistency of pudding, remove from the heat and stir in the white chocolate and butter until they melt.  Transfer the cream to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap so that the plastic wrap is in contact with the cream.  Place in the refrigerator to cool completely – about 2 hours.

For the vanilla sugar – 

Split the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds into a large bowl containing the sugar.  Use your fingers to combine the sugar and the vanilla beans.

Putting the whole thing together – 

Pour 2-2 1/2 inches (~6 cups) of vegetable oil into a large pot and heat on high until it reaches 350F.  Don’t have a deep fry or candy thermometer?  Yeah, I hear ya.  If not, just place the handle of a wooden spoon or chopstick into the oil.  When that causes the oil to bubble steadily, it’s at the right temperature (note:  if it boils really vigorously or even splashes, it’s too hot!).

Using a slotted spoon, fry the doughnuts two at a time (to avoid sticking), 1 minute on each side or until deep brown.  When they finish frying, give them a quick dunk in the oil and transfer quickly to the bowl of sugar.  Toss to coat in sugar and transfer to a paper towel to cool.  Return oil to 350F between each pair of doughnuts.

Double Rhubarb Cream-filled Doughnuts | www.purplehousecafe.com

Using the handle of a spoon, poke a little hole in the side of each doughnut.  Be careful how you handle them – you don’t want to knock all the sugar off.

Gently stir your cooled pastry cream and cooled rhubarb mix together.  Taste it.  Good eh?  Now try to restrain yourself as you dump the rhubarb cream into a pastry bag fitted with a large tip.  Insert the tip of the pastry bag into the hole you’ve made in the doughnut and fill with cream.

Stop laughing.

Double Rhubarb Cream-Filled Doughnuts | www.purplehousecafe.com

Pour yourself a teacup full of sparkling pink wine and enjoy!  Or, you know, share with some friends.