Monday, July 25, 2016

Scrambled Tofu Collard Wraps

I confess I am not a real "egg" person. I was never somebody who could sit down to a breakfast of toast and scrambled eggs in the morning, nor would I hanker for an Eggs Benedict when we'd go out for brunch. In general, I was (and guess, still am) very specific about my eggs - crispy, crusty bottom, ideally omelette or sunny-side up, and there had better be something else too. When I became allergic to egg yolk, I didn't mourn it too badly, since I hadn't eaten a "proper" egg in ages anyways.

Scrambled Tofu Collard Wraps

I think it's because of my anti-egg mindset that I didn't even bother with the idea of scrambled tofu. When my friend dropped off a bunch of veggies to us in exchange for the fruits of my A Study in Apple Pie, I was mowing through all of them but the collard greens. I've never really cooked with them before, but knew they made pretty good wrappers for things. As fate would have it, I received an email the next day about breakfast wraps using tortillas layered with collard greens, bacon, red pepper and scrambled eggs. Well, I'm not super passionate about breakfast, but the idea of a dinnertime wrap appealed to me and for some reason it sparked a craving for something eggy - just not eggs.

Since I had a block of silken tofu in the pantry (love those Tetra-Paks), I started googling ways to use it like eggs. A couple hours of research and a dive into DIY Vegan later I had something I was willing to try out, and since then I've become a non-egg egg convert!

One of the key ingredients in the Savoury Egg Mixture is something called kala namak. It's a Himalayan sea salt that is naturally infused with sulfuric compounds (like the hot springs and sulfur pools in Western Canada and the US) and when used, adds a distinctive "cooked egg" flavour to whatever it's sprinkled on. It not only makes great tofu scrambles, but it also elevates less-than-ripe tomato slices and slices of cucumber too

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Adults-Only Chocolate Orange Sauce

As a "grown up", I've gotten used to the fact that some things I could get away with eating as a kid would raise more than a few eyebrows if I tried it now. Spoonfuls of Nutella and/or peanut butter out of the jar, frozen McDonalds french fries (don't know why my mom used to freeze them but they were so good), corn syrup on toast and tubes of raw cookie dough shared amongst my closest friend all come to mind - along with the reminder that there was a reason I topped 200 pounds in my early teen years. Moderation was preached at home, but when left to my own teenage devices it left the building entirely. 

Adults - Only Chocolate Sauce

One of the other goodies I used to be able to get regularly at the local Tim Hortons was cups of chocolate milk - we're talking the fountain-drink cups here, with a Large running at 24oz of cold, rich tasting, sweet dairy. With the evolution of the menu (and inevitable price increases for "real" food and skilled labour), the fountain-style chocolate milk disappeared and was replaced with the cartons, just as "freshly made" doughnuts transformed into pre-baked, frozen pucks that are reheated and glazed on site. While carton-style chocolate milk wasn't the worst thing in the world (and was certainly better than Quik powder), it didn't quit have the same indulgent feel going for it. When I stopped being able to drink "regular" milk, I started experimenting with a few variations of chocolate pastes, syrups and sauces added to various non-dairy milks - partially to cover up any off flavours and/or textures (looking at you, off-label soy milk and most rice milks) and partially to see if I could get anything to taste similar to what I remembered, dairy or non. 

Luckily, adulthood brought with it the freedom to experiment with extra flavour options, and I took a leaf out of my mom's "chocolate-orange love" book when I came up with this beauty. The first and foremost flavour in this just-thick-enough syrup is definitely bittersweet chocolate - so much so that the milk chocoholics out there will probably shy away from licking the spoon (more for us!). However, a lingering, ever-so-subtle whisper of orange creeps in afterwards thanks to a hint of Grand Marnier. It's not cooked out, hence the "adults only" moniker, but it is definitely a throwback to after-school snacks as a kid. The syrup is just thick enough to make for an artistic drizzle over cake, ice cream or fruit, but my personal favourite is to add a shot to a (cashew milk) caffe latte for a wicked twist on a hot mocha. I've yet to test it out on the heavier drinkers here making cocktails though - let me know what your favourite would be!

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Peppery Strawbarb Blossom Jam Toast Topper #69

Strawberry and rhubarb jam has, I believe, become my new favourite flavour of Toast Topper. I'm not an overly sweet person when it comes to fruit (I love tart cherries and raspberries, for example), especially in the summer when it's a billion degrees out. Luckily, our garden is bursting with rhubarb, which tempers the saccharine nature of the perfect local berries finally making it to market. 

Peppery Strawbarb Blossom Jam

Of course, it is jam we're talking about, and when I make preserves for holiday gift giving, the sugar does play a certain role in that respect. Most pectin demands sugar to work, and while I'm always playing with low-sugar options like Pomona's and Ball's, but sometimes having the convenience of perfectly proportioned ingredients trumps fancy-dancy fine tooling. Since I can a lot of things at a time to conserve energy (water bath canners take forever to heat up!), by jam #4 I'm getting ready to call it a day. Not willing to toss the ingredients into the freezer for another day, thereby admitting defeat, I pulled out one of my fail-safe jamming secrets when time is short - sugar with pectin already added and mixed in. Using the bag of that set up a ton of strawberries and rhubarb, and thanks to the natural thickening properties of rhubarb, the mix gelled more than the directions say it will (meaning less sugar per serving!). 

Since it still seemed a bit too sweet for my taste, and mom loves the combination of strawberries and black pepper, I chopped up a handful of my beautiful, zippy homegrown nasturtium blossoms and tossed them in with a dash of white pepper for interest! The floral peppery-ness really amps up the fresh flavours of the berries, and is definitely something I will continue to do!

Are you a fan of savoury and sweet combinations (like pepper and strawberries)?

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Banana Chocolate Chip Bars #CreativeCookieExchange

Wow. I don't know what's happened to my brain these days, but I am all out of focusing power. Since I have the summer "off" (fellow teachers know that's a huge lie), I've been stuck in the mentality that I'm "multitasking" during the day when in reality I'm doing a lot of things and getting none of them done. It's been hot as blazes the past week or so too, meaning that the oven is off 90% of the time (which also saves us on energy costs), whatever fruit I glean from the farmers market with the eventual goal of turning into jam is banished to the freezer, and the ice cube trays are getting a workout. That said, I have learned that frozen lemon slices are perfect for chilling large cups of water, T-shirts make great re-usable shopping bags, a pair of socks can turn into an owl and I'm better at altering clothing than I thought.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bars


Normally at this time of year I'd also be regaling you with stories about the garden's glorious bounty. While the produce and herbs are coming along perfectly fine themselves, we unfortunately have attracted a family or two of voles, which have decimated all my early harvest lettuce, kale, heirloom peppers and some of my prized heirloom tomatoes. Until those pests are under control for good, I've decided to patrol my little plot every morning, filling in holes and mourning my losses. Needless to say, this year's haul might be somewhat spartan, and this realization has slightly deadened my usual drive to live the kitchen, heat be damned.

What has convinced me to crank up the oven lately are the almost weekly BBQ cookouts my family has. Voles aside, we have a spacious, well taken care of and (if I say so myself) rather pretty backyard, and now that our gazebo is once again securely anchored and screened in after an early season windstorm, it's a decently comfortable location for a small group to dine. While mom takes care of making the burgers, corn, salads and fruit trays, she's often too pressed for time to think about a secondary dessert option. I'm not saying fruit isn't a good Summer sweet, but one can only have so many slices of watermelon in an afternoon, and when there are kids involved you know eventually one of them is going to pine for "real dessert"! 

Chocolate Chip Banana Bars

In the interest of pleasing both the sweet teeth of all our guests as well as the goals of many of the adults to stay svelte this season (and their desire to limit the kids' sugar consumption) I devised these thin, cake-like banana bars. Essentially squares of indulgent chocolate-chip banana bread, they get a dense crumb and light tang from cream cheese that makes them perfect for a backyard BBQ or picnic lunch. The recipe makes a big pan's worth and freezes beautifully, making the most of your oven time in the midst of the summer heat. With all the chocolate chips peppered throughout, you'd never suspect they were vegan, nut free and full of fibre from oats and whole wheat. If you need to dress it up, just spoon over a handful of seasonal berries and grab a fork! 

For #CreativeCookieExchange this month, we've decided that cheese makes everything better - even cookies! Sweet or savoury, you can find all sorts of inspiration here!

You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month!

If you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Blue Raspberry Chia Jam: Toast Topper #68

Sometimes the simplest things are the most delicious. Around here, especially in the height of summer, our table sings with the bounty of both our backyard and the local farms that sell on the market days. It's a time that flies by way too fast in my opinion, since it seems like only yesterday I was hauling my first load of rhubarb from and planting my tomato seedlings in the garden, and now we're halfway through July!

Anyways, my latest foray into the farmer's market netted me with two boxes of wild Ontario blueberries, which (after careful taste testing!) were carefully stashed away from prying fingers. I had picked up a bag of frozen Ontario raspberries the week before, and had been grabbing the occasional handful right out of the freezer after a few hours in the 35C heat in our backyard, and it occurred to me to combine the two fruits in a lightly sweetened, lightning-fast Toast Topper. After all, we had a fresh loaf of Pain au Levain to gild!

Blue-Raspberry Chia Jam

I'm not kidding, either, when I say this recipe is an exercise in simplicity - or frugality. It can be as easily made in the dead of winter with frozen berries as in the height of summer with fresh, and doesn't contain any added sugar - the minimal boost in sweetness for this batch came from a boiled apple syrup I cooked down from fresh juice and tempered with added lemon juice and zest. To thicken the medley of berries, a dose of chia seeds went to work, making for a spread that is not so stiff that you have to cut through it with a knife (yech!) but thick enough not to run off your bagel in the morning. While the mixture is less alien today than a year or two ago when the chia craze first hit, I've still yet to find many people (outside of my Home Ec classes!) that have truly tasted it like this. Hopefully this recipe will spark another group of eager eaters!

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