Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Cocoa Vino Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

These red wine and dark chocolate cookies are a socially acceptable, gluten free and vegan way to indulge in a tipple at work! 

Red Wine and Dark Chocolate Cookies

I'll let you all in on a secret: I loathe wine. Unlike every adult in my family (except my sister), I find the beverage bitter, sour and tannic to the point where my mouth feels like sandpaper. Luckily, my intolerance to alcohol allows me to skip the toasts at birthdays, weddings and the like, but every year I wind up the recipient of at least one bottle from a well-meaning parent or a fluke Secret Santa swap.

While I may detest the flavour of wine in a glass, I find I don't mind it as an ingredient in recipes. When the inclusion is a key component of a savoury dish - coq au vin, for instance - a good wine choice can accent the savoury flavours of the other ingredients and add a layer of luxury. In sweet recipes - especially those with a chocolate component (like brownies, sundae sauce and muffins) - red wine is an excellent bearer of complimentary berry and other fruit notes. The presence of alcohol in chocolatey desserts also serves the purpose of heightening the cocoa and vanilla elements of the dish by releasing the organic compounds in those ingredients. In the case of gluten free baking, the right wine, paired with the right cocoa, can obscure the "off" flavours sometimes present by the flour blends.

In these cookies, however, I am happy to report the wine is not there as a mask, but as a makeup of sorts - the rich berry notes of the Chianti I had on hand opened up the floral aspects of the high-end cocoa I received for Christmas, and the combination of the wine and the Dutch process cocoa turned the baked cookies a lovely deep red-black colour. The aroma of the wine was present during baking, but faded into the merest afterthought when the cookies had cooled, giving them an edge of "grown up" sophistication without screaming "frat party". Come Valentine's Day, these would be a great treat regardless of whether you are attached or not - chocolate is the food of love, so why should it be wrong to love chocolate?

Chocolate is always in fashion--but no time more so than in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. So whether you are baking for your honey or just baking for fun, we have chocolate cookies to inspire you!

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 a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links.

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

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Chickpea Tikka Masala #SundaySupper

Chickpea Tikka Masala is made with homemade Masala sauce, spinach, mushrooms and carrots and finished with coconut milk for a rich, slightly spicy vegan lunch!

Chickpea Tikka Masala

Mid-January is usually the time when meal preparation gets back into full swing. The holiday leftovers are gone (finally), and the routine is back to normal. Of course, I'm still trying to sleep off the holiday blahs, and while cooking meals for the week is still enjoyable, making sure they're balanced and healthy as well as quick and easy can be a challenge.

One of the options is, of course, to turn to convenience foods like pre-made sauces, grain dishes and entrees for a jump on dinner. Now, I have nothing against using well-made, jarred sauces on occasion - salt free tomato products (yes, including sauce), curry pastes and condiments like mustard are staples in our pantry. Canned beans are another thing we stock up on. But now that I have a pressure canner, I've taken pleasure in making my own pantry staples - yes, including beans. This way, I get the benefits of quick and easy convenience while controlling the quality and contents of what we're eating.

Tikka Masala Sauce

I wish I could take credit for the idea behind this dish, but that honour goes to Rebecca Lindamood from Foodie with Family. I received her book, Not Your Mama's Canning Book, for Christmas 2016 and last summer was able to cook up a few treats from it's pages including her canned beans and her
Tikka Masala Sauce. As I was using my garden produce, I used pencil hot and Thai chilies instead of the jalapeno she called for, and home roasted and pureed tomatoes. I canned up two pint jars at the time - the tomato harvest was pitiful - but it was good enough for the beginning of our winter blues.

With both chickpeas and sauce at the ready, it took moments to toss together a rich, spicy ragout perfect for spooning over long grain Basmati rice. It stashed in the fridge for a good week, and was even good cold - but when the weather is anything but tropical, a warm bowl of goodness truly hits the spot!

This week #SundaySupper is focused on healthy grain bowls - rice, quinoa, farro, whatever. From Tex-Mex to teriyaki, there's something for everyone!
Sunday Supper Movement

The Sunday Supper Movement is committed to bringing our readers delicious recipes that encourage them to gather and eat together around the family table. Search for your favorite ingredients on our Sunday Supper website. Also check out the Sunday Supper Pinterest boards for plenty more ideas and inspiration.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Zippy Beet Catsup

This sweet, spicy and tangy dip tastes deceivingly like ketchup - but surprise! There are zero tomato products involved.

Zippy Beet Catsup

Let's face it - kids (and big kids) love ketchup. Even at my house - where every resident is over 25 - we have 3 bottles of it in the fridge. I use "my" low-sodium variety (which I added Louisiana hot sauce to, because) exclusively on sweet potato, butternut squash and skin-on Russett oven fries, while my often-visiting stepbrother piles his sriracha-laced variety on hamburgers. Then there's my sister, who as I've mentioned before is a bona fide ketchup addict who puts it on everything from steak (yes, even filet mignon) to fries to pasta (but not mac n' cheese... we both agree that's just wrong).

One thing kids are not generally fond of in their natural state is beets. Whether it's their garishly red colour, the slight earthiness or the fact that the thought of the root vegetable brings up memories of old ladies and sickly-sweet Harvard sauce, beets are a hard sell. I speak from experience - until I began growing my own heirlooms a few years ago, the only way you'd find me enjoying beets was in a chocolate cake. I still prefer raw, spiralized or shredded beets to roasted day to day, but I do have to admit their versatility is growing on me - especially when it comes to making condiments.

When I saw the original recipe for "beet ketchup" on Knead to Cook, I was skeptical - no way could this tomato-free spread taste like the fire-engine-red squeeze bottle stuff. You know what - I was right. It's not your commercial, smooth, hyper-sweetened tomato ketchup. It's richer, more deeply flavoured, and more complex. However, it still evokes that delicate sweet-tart balance we know and love, with a hint of spice for interest. Think of it as grown-up ketchup, or fancy "catsup" that would be at home on a dinner-party spread (or really good meatloaf!). It definitely felt at home on Wednesday night steak fries too.

My only regret? Not making more - this batch used up the last of the garden's haul from 2017. Only 10 months or so until next harvest!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Peanut Butter/Pumpkin And Applesauce Cookies for Dogs (Guest Post)

This guest post is provided by Greer Grenley, Rover.com community member. Rover is the nation's largest network of 5-star pet sitters and dog walkers.

Just like humans, dogs can have allergies to certain foods. Unfortunately, some dogs are allergic to common foods you find in many dog treats, like chicken, fish, and dairy.

Dogs show signs of allergic reactions that are easy to spot if you know what you’re looking for: itchy or oozing skin; red, irritated eyes; nasal discharge; coughing or sneezing; inflamed ears; and swollen paws.

Pups can develop allergies to their food if they eat the same thing every day for months or years. One key is to switch off the flavor of the food while sticking to the same brand so that their body maintains the correct diet without becoming as prone to allergic reactions. I feed my dogs Natural Balance Pet Food but try different proteins each month, switching off between chicken, bison, salmon, and duck.

Although there are some remedies for allergies, like medications and shampoo treatments, there are still plenty of treats dogs can enjoy even with a sensitive diet. You can bake your own tasty delights using alternative ingredients that are fun for you to make and fun for your dog to eat.

I used my dogs as taste-tasters for this recipe, and they approved. Funnily enough, they’re totally healthy for a human to eat too! You can use either peanut butter or pumpkin for this recipe. I tried a batch of each and the dogs liked them both, and while I haven’t met a dog that doesn’t like peanut butter, pumpkin has a gooey texture that held the biscuits together well. Plus, pumpkin is good for a dog’s digestive system and helps firm the stool. You can also use both ingredients in the same batch if that’s what you prefer.

(From left - right): Franny, Franklin, Walter, and George are all patiently waiting for a sample.

Peanut Butter/Pumpkin And Applesauce Cookies for Dogs
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup peanut butter or 1 ¼ cups pumpkin
1 cup unsweetened organic applesauce
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp coconut oil (Note: coconut oil is great for a dog’s coat!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients well.
  3. Knead dough in a bowl. If the dough is too loose and crumbly, add coconut oil by the tablespoon until you can form a dough.
  4. Shape the mixture into 2 inch compact balls and flatten.
  5. Place cookies on a baking sheet, approximately ½ inch apart.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes or until dry.
  7. Let cool and serve.
*I baked them until they were hard and dark in color, although you can try different textures. These cookies are best stored in the fridge.

I’m certain your dogs will find them delicious. Happy baking!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Glittering Cookie Wands

Made with vegan cream cheese, vanilla sugar, and a secret ingredient, these crisp sticks are a fantastic addition to a child's birthday party or the Harry Potter fan club table!

Glittering Cookie Wands

I grew up with the Harry Potter book series, falling in love with the characters and their antics over the years. The series holds a special sort of "magic" for me as a big sister and a teacher as well - while Beatrix Potter, Hans Christian Andersen and C.S. Lewis failed to get my little sis (and many of my past students) turning pages, the adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione opened their minds and hearts to reading for pleasure. As a result, it's nigh impossible to get my sister to put down a book today, and our shelves are thoroughly laden with reading material.

Since school, with all it's bake sales and birthday parties, is back in session after the winter break, I thought it would be fitting - and I daresay, cute -  to make some "magic wand" cookies for a bit of sparkle. While I may not be a huge fan of standard sugar cookies - for too sweet, dry and bland for my tastes - I do like those made with a touch of cream cheese. Cream cheese has long been a favourite cookie ingredient of mine, since it adds just a hint of tang and a tenderness you can't get otherwise. I found a good base recipe on Keepin' it Kind, which had not only cream cheese but cornmeal for a bit of extra texture and a touch of sweetness.

Since I was making long, skinny cookies that were more prone to breakage, I opted to swap out the vegan butter for non-hydrogenated shortening which made the dough a touch sturdier. I also used vanilla sugar instead of plain and white whole wheat flour for a touch of added nutrition. The dough freezes exceptionally well, and the batch size is perfect for a child's birthday party where cookie decorating is one of the activities (do people still have birthday parties at home anymore, with pizza and homemade cake? They should!). If you need to serve a crowd, say a pre-fan convention party, you can double, and even triple the recipe. Bust out the sprinkles (and the dark chocolate if you're feeling fancy) and get to making some cookie magic!