Thursday, January 22, 2015

Toast Topper #56: Spicy Superfruit Jelly #RecipeRedux

I don't know what it is about this week, but my mind seems to be like a sieve! I totally believed that I had taken photos of this stunningly colourful, ever-so-shimmery jelly before digging in... but apparently I didn't, and because the preserve was perfect on just about everything I could think of - from cream cheese on bagels to simple crackers, melted onto roasting pork chops and even used as the base for glazed carrots - the jars just didn't last!

So, for this #RecipeRedux, I have a photo-less recipe and mere memories of the spread. An unadulterated spoonful is almost like the chewing gum in Willy Wonka's factory - it starts as a blast of tangy cranberry and pomegranate flavour, which merges into the sweeter notes of the fruit accented with a stevia-sugar blend. Just as the last hint of sugar begins to fade away, the jalapeno pops it's fiery head in to say hello, leaving a lingering finish that isn't painful so much as addictive. I can say with certainty that while the chili fans on the "tasting panel" (aka my coworkers and houseguests) would have easily polished off a jar on their own, even the non-spiceheads went for seconds, and that's saying something!

This month's Recipe Redux is all about the smoke and spice!

"The New Year is heating up with smoke and spiciness. From boldly flavored smoked salts to actual smoking techniques, subtly smoked food is on-trend. The same can be said for spice as we savor heat from harissa, sriracha and smoked paprika." 

Check out the other spicy goodies below!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Toast Topper #55: Cherry Berry Pineapple Jam

About this time during the Winter, I wake up, look out the window and want to yell "will you just be over already?". Away from the whimsy and joy of the anticipated Christmas / Hanukkah season, the January-March stretch is nothing but dreary, (at times bitter) cold and boring. Sure, there are the standard holidays to "look forward to" - Valentine's, St. Patrick's Day and Mardi Gras - but I'll really start celebrating when the temperatures are regularly above 0.

Because this part of the year is so drab, it's the perfect time for me to dig into a bright, fruity preserve that I made late last Summer when fruit was at it's peak (and cheap!). The medley began with a pile of local, organic cherries, wild blueberries and crushed pineapple, which I loosened up with a splash of pomegranate-blueberry juice. After the mixture cooked down a touch, things moved double time thanks to a pectin-infused "jam sugar" (the same kind I've used before in preserves like this). The hardest part was waiting for it to boil (doubly true if your fruit is frozen, as it likely is now) - but the second hardest thing was waiting overnight for it to fully set. That's not to say this preserve wouldn't be delicious right away (hello, vanilla ice cream topping!) but for spreading, that pectin needs to do it's job. Sigh - the things we must go through for delicious food!

Cherry Berry Pineapple Jam

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fudgy Chocolate Wafers (*not*) #CreativeCookieExchange

First off, I am freely admitting that I messed up this month with posting for the #CreativeCookieExchange event. Life has been absolutely crazy since coming back from Christmas break (wonderful, exciting and happy, but crazy!) so good chunks of my former life seem to have evaporated for the time being... including keeping up with Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Now that things are settling back into a rhythm of sorts (if you can have one with toddlers), I'll be crawling back on the ball. Promise!

Anyways, since I did have a post primed for this month's  #CreativeCookieExchange theme (Make Someone’s Day Cookies), I couldn't hold it back. These thin, crispy-chewy, chocolate and coconut treats have become a favourite of one of my co-workers, and like my Sunny Apple Muffins every time they make an appearance in the staff room you can see her grin from across the building. Ironically, I almost threw the recipe out after making them the first time - they didn't look much like the photo on Cooking Light's page at all, even though my changes were relatively minor (using flavourful Gold Label coconut oil in place of the butter, coconut milk yoghurt and whole what pastry flour). Spread thin and flat, I was embarrassed to put them in Christmas baskets so I brought them to the staff room, where treats (regardless of their outward appearance) always seem to be appreciated. 

Fudgy Chocolate Wafers

After the reviews came in, though, I gave another batch a try, but had to stash it overnight in the fridge before baking it off. Lo and behold, I found myself with chewy, thick, still flavourful cookies that retained just the slightest bit of crispy-crunch on the edges. Packed perfectly into their tins, they were prettier than their predecessors but apparently tasted much the same. Lesson learned: chilling time = control over texture = more happy people!

Here's some more info on the #CreativeCookieExchange:

The theme this month is Make Someone’s Day Cookies! We chose someone in our lives that we loved and baked them cookies that they love! Maybe you will feel inspired to bake someone that you love a cookie! 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.

You can also just 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! Also, 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, January 15, 2015

Chocolate - Orange Sesame Truffles

One of the few things I like about winter is the availability of different citrus fruit in the markets. Until the cold weather hits, our grocery stores are devoid of some of my favourite ingredients - key limes, Meyer lemons and blood oranges! When I recently spotted the blushing, garnet-centred fruit in the produce aisle, I grabbed up a bag and knew I had to celebrate their decadent, exotic sweetness with a recipe too!

I found my winner in the book Vegan Chocolate by Fran Costigan, and with a few simple alterations I had a rich, ever-so-slightly healthy (!) semi-ganache ready to roll and coat sitting in my fridge. Using tahini gave the chocolate a slight toasted nuttiness that I didn't expect, but fell in love with after I tasted the warm, then chilled, ganache. To make them look as good as they tasted, I crusted the balls with a yin-yang of sesame seeds. In all, they're a stunningly beautiful combination of taste and appearance (just like my blood oranges), and with no refined sugar, no cream and no butter they're more than worth indulging in!

Chocolate - Orange Sesame Truffles

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunny Apple Muffins

It's Winter, and officially bleak and blah outside. I just came off my first week of full-time teaching, which while exhilarating and everything I could have hoped for in a job, is also exhausting. I have been out of the 40-hour-a-week workforce for years, and until my body readjusts I'll just have to run on adrenaline and coffee.

Oh, and muffins.

Sunny Apple Muffins

Yes, while not the most nutrient-dense of foods, a homemade muffin with the mid-day coffee sure perks up the spirit, especially during the Winter, when not too much by way of bright, fresh fruit is around. They're one of the easiest things to customize, too, being the type of food that is a bland enough base to add almost anything to, and a sturdy enough formula to handle many an ingredient substitution. I (and a few of my co-teachers) have become major fans of these muffins in particular - filled with chunks of apple, crunchy-sweet sunflower seeds and rich butter, they also get a slight bit of added texture from crushed arrowroot cookies and a wealth of flavour from sunflower "milk" and nutty whole wheat.

I originally was able to find the sunflower milk I used at the health food store near me in Tetra-Paks, but I've since heard the product was discontinued. If you can find it, it's worth the hunt for a recipe like this or a rustic bread where the nutty flavour will be highlighted - if not, you can either make your own or use your favourite "milky" beverage (flavour-wise, I'd suggest either flax or hemp), or just use regular ol' dairy. Like I said, muffins are vehicles for variation!