Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Chai - Scotti #CreativeCookieExchange

Chai tea is a big thing with some of my coworkers, and definitely a favourite of most of my yoga class. On one level I can see why - the complex, layered, warming spices, dark tea and creamy milk definitely stimulate and soothe the soul all at once. However, I've never been a "milky tea" drinker, and when I have to incorporate spice in my tea it's usually a cinnamon stick with an apple herbal infusion (a la Sugar-Free "Apple Cider"), so settling in with a mug of the frothy masala-spiked brew just never appealed.

Around the holidays (when mugs of coffee and tea abounded in the school to cope with the -20C weather) I took another look at chai and broke it down to the basics of the spice blend. After I did that, I realized that while I might not like everything in a mug all at once, I did like the majority of the flavours going on. Since I was in the midst of a biscotti blitz, I figured I would make a tea version - after all, there are only so many Empire biscuits one can eat on their china plates. These crisp cookies are very lightly sweetened (since most chai tea is sweet), scented with coconut and peppered with a sprinkling of sesame seeds for some extra nuttiness. For a little extra sugar, a powdered sugar icing was whipped up with brewed chai and drizzled on, which capped off the flavours without overwhelming them with sugar. I kept them vegan by using ground chia in place of eggs - a substitution that also helped keep them just tender enough to keep from breaking your teeth when eaten as is (chia absorbs water and holds it amazingly well).

Chai-Scotti

Cookies in the afternoon at “teatime” are a long held tradition, whether served with tea, coffee or even milk for an after school snack. No matter what you serve with your cookies, we’ve got a great list for you to choose from!

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! 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:

Friday, March 17, 2017

Irish Cream Caramel Biscotti

When I was growing up, my grandparents used to live next door to an Irish family. The two youngest daughters were my age and a year older, and we shared the same class in school for years as best friends on and off the playground. Their mom was the school's administrator (back then called a secretary), and would drive us to school in the morning. Even at 8AM, with four (including my sister) grumpy, bleary eyed kids tromping after her, I never recall her being anything other than a generally calm, happy person who's gentle accent always made you feel like she was your mom and best friend rolled in one.

Irish Cream Caramel Biscotti

While it was never a point of note for me as a kid (my grandparents moved when I was 8), now that I think of it I never once saw any alcohol in their house. In fact, I never saw them drink - although ironically my first taste of "real" rum (and whiskey) balls was at a Christmas party there. They always seemed immune to the social pressures of the community to have beer and cocktails at their Summer cookouts, instead serving up glorious "mocktails" for everyone (my favourite involved orange juice, grenadine and ginger ale).

Back home, though, my sister and I were initiated into the world of alcohol through sips of our parents' beer or wine when we went out for dinner (the only time they drank much), and mugs of Bailey's or Kahlua laced hot cocoa or cafe au lait during frosty mornings on our sailboat. With such small doses at a time, we actually had the opportunity to appreciate the flavour of the alcohol - something that I truly value now that I can't drink. Baked into a cookie like biscotti - meant to be dunked in coffee - the flavour of the Irish cream wakes up again and takes on the coffee's flavour while imparting its own into the cup. Tit for tat, no?

And because Irish cream and caramel are just SO good together, I figured I'd throw in some caramel flavour with Vanilla Caramel coffee creamer. After dividing my dough, I kneaded crushed caramels into one part, leaving the other one plain, and I glazed both after they cooled for a "coffee shop" style look.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Date - Fig Bars

Perusing my archives, it's definitely clear that I have a soft spot for figs. Not only did I whip up three variations of my long-standing favourite cookie, but I even worked them into an elegant braided challah that my mom still talks about. The one thing I hated about making those cookies was how finicky rolling and sealing the dough could be - and since I'm lazy the time to roll out, fill, trim, roll and cut is just not my cup of tea. Bars, however, are a-OK: Less mess, less individual cutting, and far easier storage.

Date - Fig Bars

When I came across a fig-filled bar cookie in my review copy of Bake Something Great, I knew I wanted to try it out. Unfortunately I didn't have stellar results the first time around, but I picked up enough tips along the way to turn my next pan into a vegan, filling packed, whole grain success. I was running short on the namesake figs by the time I got to baking, but luckily I had some dates handy. These not only bulked up the mix, but added extra sweetness as well so I could use even less sugar in the dough. I upped the flour, using a mix of spelt and whole wheat, and used shortening and flax to keep things animal free.

Finally, after chilling everything down, I got to make my first slice - success! Tons of figgy filling, tender, slightly nutty crust and perfect for packing on a picnic or in a lunchbox.

Date-Fig Bars

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Irish Multigrain Bread #Breadbakers

How do you celebrate the 17th of March? While I don't drink, my fellow teachers have the luck of the Irish around them, since St. Pat's almost always falls during March Break. Of course, regardless of whether we party all night or simply wear the green, the morning after we all need a good, hearty and nutritious breakfast to get going. When I found Yvette van Boven's recipe for Irish Multigrain Bread in her book Home Baked, I knew it would be perfect for the St. Patty's Day week - it is so easy (and fast) to whip up, you could bake a loaf on a weeknight in you wanted, or (if you're an early bird) stick a pan of it in the oven first thing before the rest of the world gets up an hour late thanks to Daylight Savings time. My favourite part of making this loaf is that there is no kneading - perfect for bicep-less me - and with only 1 rise in the pan you can't overhandle it while shaping.

Irish Multigrain Bread

The resulting drain-filled loaf is dense but light enough to have for breakfast, and with both oats and Q'ia cereal in the crumb it's almost a portable bowl of porridge in itself. Unlike porridge, though, this bread makes excellent toast and soaks up any Toast Topper you throw at (or on) it, but is moist enough to stand alone as well, possibly as a side to a soup like Beef Barley "Semi-Strone".

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

BreadBakers

Check out the Irish Breads that our fellow #BreadBakers have baked this month:

Monday, March 13, 2017

Beef Barley "Semi-Strone"

While I didn't grow up a soup-loving kid, I'll admit there were times when a steaming-hot bowl of broth filled with bits and bites of delicious stuff really hit the spot. These days, I'm hard pressed not to have soup for dinner a few nights a week, especially when I come home from a particularly long or cold day at work. Like my mom, I don't crave soup when I'm feeling sick, though - the bowls I desire are always too thick, too spicy or too "busy" for the bland diet prescribed for stomach flu. Instead, give me French Canadian pea soup with liberal dashings of pepper, or a minestrone packed full of beans.

Beef Barley "Semi-Strone"

With our freezer stores running low on meals and high on leftovers, it was clearly time to whip up another batch of soup (my favourite go-to for cleaning the fridge and freezer!). I started with a container of ground beef left over from the Summer's burger-making, roasted garlic paste and a bag of beef stock cubes from gosh-knows-when, adding frozen tomato paste pucks for a little body. From the pantry came the spices, canned tomatoes, chickpeas and a bowlful of barley which I soaked overnight to hasten the cooking time. After a nice long simmer, leftover greens from last week were stirred in to add a bit of pop. The mix was delicious right away, but by lunchtime the next day? Perfection.

I call this a "semi-strone" because while it has a lot of the Italian flavours going for it (and like the original version was made with leftovers), it also uses barley, which is untraditional, and leaves out any notion of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Whatever you call it, it is sure delicious and a great stick-to-your-ribs meal any day of the week!