My birthday comes at the end of the summer and we always try to do something special – plus it’s a great time to get out and enjoy this beautiful country.

Last year Johnny was recording his latest album, “Dance With The Lady”, so we didn’t have a great deal of time – or money (I love jazz… but lucrative it ain’t). We spent a few days in Tobermory, ON at a little cottage we found for $50 a night… we got what we paid for.We normally like to camp, but Emmett was still quite young and we didn’t want to cut our trip short if he was acting up. He LOVED it… I did not.

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It was gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, Tobermory has so much to offer, but it rained every single day we were there. The cottage was a hovel – dirtier than camping and I swore the little shed around back housed an axe murderer – and it was incredibly busy. We spent two hours in town at a laundromat because we discovered our bedding was musty. After putting it in the dryer it somehow got tangled in on itself – like a Chinese finger puzzle – the more we worked on it the worse it got. We were there so long we generated an audience – one woman even started filming our wrestling match.

This year I took off a week and vowed to do it differently. We were dying to go back to Gros Morne in Newfoundland – one of the most stunning places on earth – but we couldn’t make it work. Tooling around online I found a park called Massasauga, in Parry Sound. It is entirely back country sites only accessible by water and many on their own island or private bay. We went ahead and booked for five nights and I am vibrating I am so excited! The photos we managed to pull up look outstanding and being in a secluded place (as secluded as two hours from the city will get you), is looking really attractive to me right now. It’s easy to forget just how glorious the lakes in this province are when you’re sweating it out in the stinky city.

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This all got me thinking about how gorgeous this country is. I have been hating on Toronto as of late -the news is saturated with stories about the rising cost of living, failing infrastructure, transit woes and way too many cyclist deaths. When I step back and look around at all we have I am in awe. This beautiful land is so large and varied and you could spend your life trying to visit it all. Johnny has been almost everywhere with his old band, The Pocket Dwellers, they spent years driving across it countless times over, but I have yet to explore it myself.

Canada has so many interesting traditional foods and I forget that we have some very special creations of our own. From coast to coast flavours cover it all – seafood, game, produce, and some bizarre stuff in between. We have a lot of snack foods native to this land, like the Joe Louis, All Dressed chips, butter tarts, Ginger-ale and, of course, poutine. So, I decided to marry a couple of Canadian classics to make maybe the richest and sweetest square this country has ever seen. Next time you need a new bake sale go to or crave something to make your teeth ache, check this out.

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COFFEE CRISP NANAIMO BARS

Bottom Layer:

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 tsp almond extract

1/4 cup sugar

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup ground almonds

1 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

In a double broiler melt together: butter, sugar, almond extract and cocoa. Once melted, combine egg and beat 2 – 3 minutes until it thickens. Remove from the heat and fold in almonds and cracker crumbs. Press into a greased and parchment paper lined 9×9″ pan. Chill until firm.

Middle Layer:

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 tbsp heavy cream

2 tbsp vanilla pudding powder

2 cup icing sugar

3 tbsp coffee whitener

Beat all ingredients together until creamy and pour over the bottom layer. Smooth gently to cover entirely, cover with plastic wrap and return to the fridge to chill. Let it set at least and hour.

Top Layer:

4 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate

3 tbsp instant espresso powder

2 tsp butter

1 tbsp icing sugar

2 Coffee Crisp bars, broken into nuggets about 3/4″ inch in size

Melt everything but the Coffee Crisps in a double broiler until well combine. Smooth over the middle layer making it relatively even. Scatter the top with your nuggets and gently press them down with the back of a spatula or spoon. Chill for 2 more hours or more.

These little guys are very rich, so to serve, I recommend cutting them into fairly small bites.

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