Monday, August 25, 2014

Gluten - Free Zucchini - Flax Squares

Are you sick of me posting zucchini recipes yet? Well, I hate to break it to you, but I still have a few more up my sleeve thanks to the brisk proliferation from our vines (still!), but I did freeze a bunch of 1-cup shred "pucks" so I can meter out the remaining baking. I can't help but use the squash in everything these days, though - our growing season here is so pitifully short that I grasp every opportunity I have to savour what comes in from the backyard garden!

Gluten-Free Zucchini - Flax Squares

These tender, lunch box-perfect squares were the original brainchild of Emily Mainquist, one of the Special Contributors at The Daily Meal and author of Sweet Vegan: A Collection of All Vegan, some Gluten-Free, and a Few Raw Desserts. I definitely made it my own, though, pumping it full of super-healthy (and delicious) flax seed in both whole and ground forms, using stevia and agave for some of the dark brown sugar and mixing up my own flour blend rather than using a pre-mixed variety. I was also able to cut down on the oil significantly without sacrificing texture or flavour, and since I left out the nuts from the already vegan recipe the whole pan was safe to bring to school and share... not that much of that happened :-). Of course, adding in a hefty dose of chocolate certainly helped solidify the squares' lunchtime status, and the pan disappeared almost as fast as the zucchini arrived on our table! 

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Zapple Butter Zucchini Loaf

I know there are a zillion zucchini bread recipes out there. Heck, I have at least 10 on here myself, each a totally unique variation on the theme (and common goal of using up zucchini glut). If you look at a lot of these recipes, though, you'll notice they contain large amounts of oil or butter - something that always surprised me, given the veggie's inherent moisture. They also tend to include grotesque amounts of sugar - a more understandable feature, since the squash is relatively bland (and easy to hide!). I knew there was definite room for improvement on both fronts, and wanted to see if I could make the loaf vegan too.

Apple Butter Zucchini Bread

Now, replacing oil with applesauce is nothing new. Dieters have been using that trick for ages, and in general it works - with the caveat that baked goods can be a tad spongy or gummy. I've found a lot greater success using apple butter, but usually only dared swap about 2/3 of the fat for it. However, I had been using up some of our zucchini glut by making Zapple Butter, and figured I'd try the double-zucchini treatment here exclusively. That's right - there is NO added fat in this loaf, and since I was on a roll, I made it 100% whole wheat and refined sugar free. Veganizing the recipe was the easiest thing to get my head around, since I had a fresh supply of Homemade Egg Replacer on hand that worked beautifully. 

Even after all that modification, the bread was perfectly moist (not gummy at all!), tender and rich tasting thanks to maple syrup, coconut sugar and a hefty dash of cinnamon and allspice accenting the nutty flavours from the coconut milk and whole wheat. It's great au naturale, warmed slightly with a dab of butter, apple butter or cream cheese, or even French toasted! When treats this good are this guilt-free, the options are endless!

Apple Butter Zucchini Bread

Friday, August 22, 2014

Zucchini Mincemeat

Each year, I get the chance to have my very own "Christmas in July (or August)" when I fire up the stove, canner and food processor to make that year's holiday mincemeat. Mincemeat is definitely one of those "love it or hate it" foods - I personally don't like intensely rich, dark, sticky medley of dried fruit, molasses and heady spices - especially when blended with savoury components (as I've said before, I'm not a fan of "fruit + anything". My parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles are all huge fans of the stuff, however, and for some reason I'm able to make better than storebought versions myself each year, despite changing the recipe based on that season's glut of produce.  

Zucchini Mincemeat

While I'm never lacking for filling when tart time comes around, there also never seems to be quite the same volume in the container of my "freezer" batch between August and December... I'll just have to blame our house gnomes (you know, the same ones who steal single socks out of the laundry). More than just planning ahead for the holidays, though, making mincemeat is my way of continuing my mom's holiday ritual of gift-making for my dad back when they were married. The whole process is something extremely comforting, the pot emanating aromas with the power to evoke memories of the many years I spent making tarts at my mom's side and spark that little childish thrill I still get from "playing magician" in my spice cabinet. Watching the overflowing pot of produce cook down into that thick, spoonable black gold is nothing short of wonderful, especially since it's the first taste of holiday glory (without the need to bust out the snow shovel and snowsuit).

This year's mincemeat, as the title implies, is the perfect thing to use up a glut of zucchini / summer squash from the garden (which we obviously have). Laced with rum and given the extra twist of well aged, sweet and tangy balsamic vinegar, I added raisins, prunes and cranberries for texture and their slight thickening power as they soak up the fragrant, flavourful liquids. In place of tree nuts, I tossed in a handful of lentils, which also helped thicken the pot but added a rich earthiness of their own too. I canned two thirds of the batch for use in the new year (or as a Christmas in July ingredient next Summer), but froze the remaining third in a vaccuum sealed bag for easy "grab n' go" filling at holiday time. 

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Apple - Oat Breakfast Cookies (Back to School #SundaySupper)

I think it's kind of funny that the end of Summer break snuck up on me. It's not too surprising, given that I've been working the Summer school / camp program since the beginning of July and as such didn't experience the definite "break" most of the students (and many of the teachers) did, but the realization that there's only a week left of camp before school "set up" begins still made me do a double take. All I can say is that thankfully I don't have to plan months of lessons in advance, or do much of the administrative stuff my superiors at school do - I'm actually still waiting on confirmation as to what my role will actually be next year! 

With my relative freedom after camp lets out for the day, I've been doing some planning and preparation of a different kind: weekday meals! Lunches have always been relatively standard on my end, but early mornings demand on-the-go food I can easily toss into my bag for the commute if (read: when) I sleep through my alarm in the morning. I've never been one for "savoury" breakfasts (even scrambled eggs, home fries and bacon get lashings of dark maple syrup here), but since pancakes and oatmeal can be a bit messy in the car I settled for the next best thing - breakfast cookies. 

Apple - Oat Breakfast Cookies

These hand-held, sugar free bites of bliss have it all: Amoré Almonds + Dairy beverage, multigrain cereal, oats, flaxseed and protein powder make up a "powered up" base peppered with diced apple and a seed mixture. Hearty but not heavy, they're the perfect size to get you to lunch without thinking about the vending machine or cafeteria - and if you do find yourself a bit peckish mid morning a second one won't derail your healthy eating mantra either, since each cookie is under 150 calories! 

This week's #SundaySupper is helping everyone gear up for school once again. Check out all the fabulous recipes and make sure to say hi!

Back to School Beginnings
Back to School Lunches and Simple Suppers

Back to School Sips

Back to School Super Snacks

Back to School Sweets and Treats
Sunday Supper Movement 
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Friday, August 15, 2014

Harvest Ragoût-Filled Zucchini “Marrow”

It surprises a lot of people that in a previous life I was a total meat-aholic. In particular, I loved all the "end bits" left over from a dinner mom would cook - the cartilage, fat, skin and (in particular) bone marrow of that night's chicken, pork chop or steak were beloved treats, and things like oxtail soup were high on my "like" list (I always wanted to try beef heart before getting sick, too - not so much now!). Vegetables? I could take them or leave them, really, unless drenched in a sauce of some kind or smothered in salsa, hot sauce or lemon juice.

Harvest Ragoût-Filled Zucchini “Marrow”

Of course, now the tables are drastically reversed! I crave and covet veggies above all else, finding I like ones I never considered before and loving the various configurations they can be formed into. with our recent glut of zucchini, I've been making zucchini boats with various things, but when we had some truly epic-sized beasts come in I turned to the internet for more inspiration. It was good ol Mr. G that reminded me that large summer squash are often called "marrows" (although "real" marrows are a different veggie), and that label got it into my head to try a different type of stuffed zucchini variation: mock marrow bones.

The Weird Characters
Two weird characters: celeriac (L) and kohlrabi (R)

A trip to a few farmer's markets turned out to be gold for inspiration and sourcing what we didn't grow out back, too. Leeks, kohlrabi and celeriac joined the freshly-picked haul of eggplant, beets, carrots, herbs, arugula and summer squash, which I then rounded out flavour-wise with lentils, sun-dried olives, tomato paste and white wine. Finally, I took a peeler to a wedge of Parmigano Reggiano cheese for piquant ribbons that browned ever so slightly in the oven, making for a vegetarian main or elegant side dish! If you need this to be vegan / dairy free, I'd suggest a dusting of ground almonds or panko for that little bit "extra".

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays and Friday Frenzy