Butter Tarts and the Sweetest Showdown of the Year

This past weekend, my family and I ventured out to take in the sites and smells at the second annual Midland Butter Tart Festival which took place up and down King Street, Midland, Ontario. Everyone in our family loves butter tarts. What’s not to love?! Buttery crust filled with a sweet, gooey filling. A true Canadian delight that everyone’s grandmother has made.

Maple Butter Tarts
Homemade gluten free maple butter tarts, Chef at Heart.

Thankfully, we arrived early because many of the vendors were sold out in the early hours of the day, unbelievable given some of them had taken upwards of 70 to 100 dozen tarts to sell. There were butter tarts EVERYWHERE! More than 50,000 tarts in total from vendors that lined both sides of King Street. Whatever your pleasure, the festival had the tart of your dreams: with raisins or without, with walnuts or pecans, gluten-free tarts, chocolate butter tarts, and so many more!

Midland Butter Tart Festival 3
Sampling butter tarts during the judging of the professional category.

The tarts were being judged in two categories: professional and homemade. We were lucky enough to attend some of the professional judging in the morning and were able to sample a few of the entries and we knew right then that we weren’t going home empty-handed.

Once back out on the street, we purchased tarts from a couple of the top vendors from last year’s competition: ones with walnuts, and some plain/traditional. Naturally, this meant having our own Father’s Day taste-off and the tarts we brought home were put up against my own gluten-free maple version. I’m happy to say, my tart won for overall appearance and even received one vote for best tart overall (no, that doesn’t include my vote, lol). Pretty good for putting a gluten-free version up against two other ‘normal’ award winning tarts made by professionals.

I have no doubt there will be a third annual Midland Butter Tart Festival and I highly recommend you check it out. Early!

Maple Butter Tarts
Chef at Heart Maple Butter Tarts

Maple Butter Tarts (gluten-free)

This is my own recipe for a gluten-free butter tart that will have even gluten-eaters coming back for seconds and thirds. This maple version uses 100% maple syrup in place of corn syrup.

For the pastry:

1/3 cup water, ice-cold

2 tsp cider vinegar

2 egg yolks

1 cup brown rice flour

1 & 1/2 cups tapioca starch

2 tsp guar gum

1/4 tsp sea salt

1 cup butter, cut into chunks

For the filling:

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1/3 cup butter, melted

2 eggs

1 tbsp white vinegar

pinch sea salt

raisins (optional) – soak raisins in warm water for a few minutes to soften if desired


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small bowl, combine water, vinegar, and egg yolks.

In a food processor, pulse the rice flour, tapioca starch, guar gum, and salt to combine.

Add the chunks of butter and pulse until butter is coated in flour and resembles small peas.

While the food processor is running, slowly add the water mixture just until the ingredients come together. Do not over mix.

Remove the dough from the processor and place on a sheet of waxed or parchment paper coated with a light dusting of tapioca starch. Knead to form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, syrup, eggs, vinegar and salt. Slowly add the melted butter and mix well. Set aside until pastry is ready.

Roll out pastry on dusted surface and form into rounds for tart/muffin pan. If using raisins, place a few raisins in the bottom of each tart shell. Pour maple filling into unbaked shells, filling two-thirds full. Bake at 375 F until filling is set, about 20 minutes (decrease baking time a few minutes if you prefer a runny filling over a firm one).

Cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack.





Chicken Satays with Thai Peanut Sauce

After a week of rain, we are finally seeing the sun and some beautiful weather, and that brings up thoughts of lighter, fresher foods, and meals cooked on the grill. Every spring and summer our diets undergo a change. Fresh local produce begins to flood the market, meals are cooked and eaten outdoors, and we want to spend more time outside than in the kitchen so things need to come together quickly.

Chicken Satays with Thai Peanut Sauce
Chicken Satays with Thai Peanut Sauce

Yesterday was one of those days: busy, beautiful weather, kids playing outside after school, and not wanting to spend a great deal of time preparing dinner. Fortunately, I have one or two ‘go-to’ easy recipes that are perfect for these types of days, and so yesterdays dinner was chicken satays with a no-cook Thai peanut sauce. By taking just 20 minutes in the morning to put chicken in a marinade, you can fire up the grill and have an easy, tasty dinner on the table in under 30 minutes at the end of the day.


4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

2 tbsp peanut butter

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 tbsp tamari sauce

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp olive oil

Cut chicken into large chunks or into long, thin strips (your preference). Place in a large Ziploc bag and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the remaining ingredients and combine. Pour this over the chicken and massage the bag to make sure each piece of chicken is coated with the marinade. Place in the fridge for several hours or as long as overnight.

Note: If you are using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them in water for a few hours before grilling.

When you are ready to cook the chicken, thread the chicken onto the skewers and discard any remaining marinade. Preheat the grill to med-high. Cook the satays on the grill until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side.

Chicken Satays
Chicken Satays

Arrange the satays on a plate or platter and serve with Thai peanut sauce (recipe below). I served ours last night on a bed of quinoa and broccoli but these are great alone as an appetizer with the sauce served on the side, or on a bed of rice.

Thai Peanut Dressing

While I use a few different variations on a basic Thai peanut sauce recipe that I’ve used for years, all of them are cooked sauces. Last night I wanted to try something else and found this one from Our Best Bites. It’s a fantastic no-cook sauce that comes together quickly in a blender or food processor that can be used for salads or as a vegetable dip. I made it 2 hours in advance so the flavours had time to develop and it was a big hit with everyone at the table, young and old.










Apple Crisp (gluten-free)

As the snow flies once again for what we can only hope is the last time this season, I find myself dreaming of warm comfort food. Specifically, I’m picturing a warm dish of apple crisp with a dollop of vanilla ice cream melting over the top of it, creating a sweet sticky sauce in the bottom of the bowl.

Apple Crisp
Apple Crisp

One of the very first gluten-free recipes I created was apple crisp. It took a number of attempts to get the combination just right, but now I have it perfected to the point that my little family will ask for my apple crisp rather than a ‘regular’ (gluten version) apple crisp, and if we serve it to company, they never guess that it’s gluten-free. Unlike most traditional recipes for crisp, my recipe has the apples sandwiched between layers of crisp with a beautiful crust on the bottom, and a light sprinkling of the cinnamon oat goodness on top. After all, you can never have enough crisp!

So if you’re looking for a sweet bowl of comfort food for dessert tonight, try some apple crisp (ice cream optional, but highly recommended). I’ve also included a version for gluten-free blueberry crisp.


Apple Crisp (gluten-free)
Apple Crisp (gluten-free)

APPLE CRISP (gluten-free)

½ cup brown rice flour

¼ cup tapioca starch

¼ cup potato starch (not flour)

1 cup gluten-free oats

½ tsp cinnamon

1 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp gluten-free baking powder

½ cup butter

5 large apples (I use MacIntosh)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a large pie plate or 8-inch square baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix together rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, oats, cinnamon, sugar, and baking powder. Cut butter into the dry mixture until well combined. Set aside.

Peel and core the apples. Cut into ½ inch slices.

Spread half of the oatmeal mixture into the pie plate, and pat it down with fingers to form a crust. Top with the apples and cover lightly with the remaining oatmeal mixture. Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm with ice cream.

*for blueberry crisp: add 1/2 tsp ground ginger to the dry ingredients and replace apples with about 4 cups of blueberries (add more if desired).

Blueberry Crisp (gluten-free)
Blueberry Crisp (gluten-free)

Burger Time!

The beautiful spring weather has me craving a big, fat, juicy hamburger grilled to perfection on the BBQ. Anyone else?

25 Tasty Hamburger Alternatives

On the hunt for something to satisfy my craving, I found this article that features 25 tasty and healthy hamburger alternatives and I just had to share.

I think I could spend the next few months trying each and every one of them. And I just might! LOL



Beans Bourguignon

The classic dish Beef Bourguignon gets a makeover to turn it into a vegetarian delight.

beans bourguignon 1

I am so fortunate to have a child who loves good food and is eager to try everything and anything. In fact, the more gourmet or exotic the better. After recently hearing a classmates speech on how animals are treated in the name of fast food, my daughter decided to become a vegetarian and is now discovering new foods and new food combinations.

One new recipe I tried had her smiling as the smell of simmering onions, carrots, mushrooms, thyme, and rosemary filled the house. I stumbled upon a recipe for beans bourguignon in the Vegetarian Cooking cookbook by the Culinary Institute of America and knew it was right up her alley. The recipe uses kidney beans in place of the traditional beef and so I decided to try it last week. The dish came together quickly, the flavours were rich, and it was a big hit at the dinner table.

The original recipe is cooked in a short time on the stove top and while I chose to start it that way, I switched it to the slow cooker for a few hours to allow the flavours extra time to fully develop. I also omitted the flour to make the recipe gluten-free (it wasn’t necessary in the end). As always, be sure to use high quality ingredients for the best results: select a good red wine and high quality tomatoes.

This recipe is a keeper for us.

The recipe posted below includes my modifications (removing the flour and the tempeh ) and has instructions for using the slow cooker. The original recipe can be found here.


  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 shallots, diced
  • 4 carrots, peeled, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups kidney beans, cooked
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, carrots, and garlic, and cook until the shallots are translucent, about 3–4 minutes.
  2. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook until they start to become tender, about 4–5 minutes more.
  3. Stir in the thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, tomatoes, broth, and half of the wine.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20–25 minutes.
  5. Add the rest of the wine, beans, salt, and pepper. Continue to simmer until good flavor develops, about 10–15 minutes more. Remove and discard the herbs and bay leaf.

Recipe adapted from Culinary Institute of America.

*My slow cooker steps: follow the directions through steps 1-3, adding all the wine at step 3. Bring the ingredients to a boil then transfer to a slow cooker. Cook on low until the vegetables are tender, about 4-6 hours (depending on your slow cooker). Add the beans about 1 hour before serving and season to taste. Remove the herbs and bay leaf before serving.

Creamy Dill Dip

Burn Your Boosters Cake
Burn Your Boosters Cake

Last weekend we celebrated a milestone birthday of sorts for a couple young family members who are now old enough to leave their booster seats behind. The theme was Burn the Boosters (any excuse for a party) and while we couldn’t actually burn their booster seats, my sister made a fantastic cake that we ‘burned’ instead.

Burn Your Boosters Cake
Burn Your Boosters Cake

The cake was of course the highlight of the party, but in our house no one ever goes home hungry and there was plenty of food to enjoy including a waffle bar with plenty of toppings, and lots of munchies to start things off.

Creamy Dill Dip
Creamy Dill Dip

While we waited for the party to get into full swing, everyone noshed on a chip and cracker platter with a homemade creamy dill dip. Now I must admit that normally I buy all the munchies for parties and focus on making only the main dishes, but this time I decided to try my hand at making a dip from scratch. I started with a cream cheese base, added some Greek yogurt for a creamy smooth texture, and added both chopped dill pickles and fresh dill (there’s never enough dill). The result was nothing less than addictive.  The cream cheese and yogurt gave a beautiful creamy tang while the chopped dill added small crunchy bursts of flavour.

We have another party this weekend and the only question now is do I try another dip, or can I make the dill dip one more time?


This dip is best if made several hours ahead in order to allow the flavours to fully develop.

8 oz Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
3/4 cup chopped dill pickles
3 tbsp chopped fresh dill (you can add more or less to taste)
pickle juice, as needed

In a bowl, add the cream cheese, yogurt, pickles, and fresh dill. Mix until well blended. Add pickle juice, a little at a time as needed, until you reach your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until needed.

*I put the dip together the night before the party then let it to sit at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes before serving to allow the cream cheese to soften a little.

Creamy Dill Dip -perfect with chips or crackers
Creamy Dill Dip -perfect with chips or crackers

A Slow-Cooker Day: Maple Chipotle Pork and Beans

Maple chipotle pulled pork and beans aBetween the gold medal hockey game and the Olympic closing ceremonies today, there is little or no time to be spending the day in the kitchen preparing tonight’s dinner. Thankfully, I planned ahead and dinner is taking care of itself in the slow-cooker while I sit glued to the tv screen.

Tonight’s dinner is pure comfort food: maple chipotle pork and beans. The original recipe from Newfoundland Rock Recipes can be found here, but with one vegetarian in our house and my desire for a slow-cooker recipe, I did adapt the recipe somewhat.

I soaked the beans one day (and night) ahead and made everything up yesterday, leaving it in the fridge overnight so I could get up early this morning, turn the slow-cooker on, and let it simmer (on high) all day today. To keep part of it vegetarian, I cooked the meat in one pot then cooked the onion, garlic, and the sauce in a second pot. I then divided the beans into two slow-cookers, split the sauce, and added the meat to only one portion. The smell in our house is incredible and I must admit I have already sampled the beans and the flavour is outstanding. I highly recommend you try the recipe whether you adapt it or not.

Maple chipotle pulled pork and beans vegetarian
The vegetarian version half-way through the day and the cooking process.