Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cranberry-Orange Bulgur Bread (#RecipeRedux)

If you're to go through my kitchen and baker's arsenal, the sheer amount of random ingredients (in random amounts) would likely shock and amaze you. I normally pride myself on being relatively comprehensive in my use of things - i.e. I don't buy what I don't need - but due to buying in bulk most of the time I wind up with odds and ends of ingredients that never seem to add up to much.

Eventually, though, all those odds and ends get to be just too much and it comes time for a purge. When it's a more "savoury" ingredient like legumes or grains, a pot of soup can eat up the majority of them in quick order. Bread is almost never left behind in this household, but turns into stuffing cubes for the next roast turkey dinner, while bones and veggie scraps turn into containers of stock. When it comes to the sweeter things though, or the "middle ground" items that can go either way, coming up with an adequate use for all of them within as few recipes as possible becomes a bit more challenging. The last "pantry purge" of mine landed me with bulgur, orange juice and Craisins - all suitable for a breakfast hot cereal or dinner pilaf, but since nobody here was in the mood for those I reverted to my fallback - a loaf of bread.

I think of bread as the "catch all" of the baking pantry. It's hard to think of something that can't fit one way or another into a loaf of yeasted goodness, and these ingredients were (in the grand scheme of things) fairly easy to incorporate. The resulting loaf has just enough grainy texture and fruity flavour to play nicely with the pops of dried fruit, and makes excellent French toast as well as a great accompaniment to spicy soup or grilled chicken.

Cranberry-Orange Bulgur Bread

This month our #RecipeRedux group is raiding the pantry, cupboards, freezer, and fridge for the hidden or forgotten treasures we bury. What ‘treasures’ have you found recently in your home, and what do you do with them? Let me know in the comments and be sure to check out all the treats below!


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sourdough Chunk Cookies #SundaySupper Picnic!

Happy Sunday! I'm personally astonished that it's almost the end of April now... where has the time gone? All of a sudden the snow has melted away and even a good portion of the mud "ponds" have dried up into mere puddles, and when the forecast calls for precipitation it's no longer centimetres of "white stuff" but millimetres of rain. Married with the beginnings of new grass growth in the backyard, this year's crop of tomato seedlings starting to sprout indoors and small bouquets of cut daffodils for Cancer Awareness available in the stores, there's no doubt in my mind that it is, finally, Spring.

One of the major Spring projects my community, as well as my family, takes part in is an outdoor clean-up for Earth Day. It's a time for us to pick up and properly discard all the littler that had been hidden underneath the snow over the winter so that any toxins won't poison the soil and water supply. Depending on the day and who runs the city's version of the event, an eco-friendly lunch follows which always sends people home just that little bit more aware of their ecological impact. I've always been one to try and reduce waste in the kitchen, more out of a desire to save money than anything else, so the idea of making a pack-along dessert for on-the-go noshing that required no extra shopping on my part was right up my alley. I have been nursing a sourdough starter for many years now, and always have sourdough toss-off on my hands. I do my best to use it in whatever I can, from a supplement in bread to an ingredient in hot cross buns, crumpets and even brownies, but I'll admit I still wind up tossing more than my fair share into the compost bin.

Sourdough Chunk Cookies

Then, I found the perfect solution - cookies that allowed me to use up my excess sourdough quickly (no "1/4 cup" amounts here) and stock my freezer with "bake-on-demand" treats for whenever the moment strikes! The rye-based starter I use guarantees the baked cookies are tender, with a delicate but definite "tang" that works perfectly with almost any addition you can think of - I compiled a host of leftover Valentine's Day and Easter dark chocolate from this year's gift stash and bulked up the rest of the batter with the last of a bag of Love Crunch® Dark Chocolate & Red Berries, which I had received for review in December. Everything else was pantry- and fridge-raided too, and the whole compilation was so successful that I wound up making a second batch to use up all the tiny boxes of Valentine's Day Smarties I had been given and taking it into school for bake sale.

This week at #SundaySupper we're celebrating a two-fer of special days. April 22nd is Earth Day and April 23rd is National Picnic Day - perfectly inter-laceable themes with an eye towards appreciating  our planet. In homage to the theme, our group (led by by T.R. of Gluten Free Crumbley) is sharing recipes perfect for picnicking or otherwise enjoying in the great outdoors.

Appetizers:

Beverages:

Main Dishes:

Sides:

Soups and Salads:

Desserts:

Sunday Supper Movement

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Friday, April 17, 2015

(Very) Vanilla Persimmon Jam: Toast Topper #59

If you absolutely had to choose, which flavour would you cut out from your life forever - chocolate, or vanilla?

I'm solidly in the chocoholic club, and while I'd miss the rich, floral notes of vanilla bean in unadorned ice cream, pudding and cake, it's so often a background nuance that I never really take time to consider it on its own. That said, most of the men in my life (Dad especially) are vanilla lovers through and through. You will never see a chocolate cake at their birthday party (unless someone brings a second cake), and if they, for some reason, have to choose a piece of chocolate they go straight for the white stuff. Which is fine, really - the more Amedei Chuao for me the better!

Since I made the frosting for my mom's birthday cake (a riff on Super Vanilla Frosting, where I added vanilla custard powder for more oomph) I've been trying to give vanilla a bit more mind in the kitchen. My taste project was aided further by my grandmother, who upon returning from the Dominican Republic, gave me two vials of vanilla extract from there. They smelled absolutely unlike any other vanilla I've used - sweet and almost fruity, with a delicate tropical note I can't quite place. I don't think they're true vanilla extract, judging by the research I've done, but taste and useability wise it's about on par with the bottle of Mexican stuff that I bought (still short of my favourite Tahitian, though), and lends itself well to fruit-based applications as well as things where it's baked (unlike frostings, ice creams, etc).

When I found myself with some extra vanilla persimmons kicking around, I decided to give making jam with a "vanilla" theme it a shot to see if I could marry dessert flavours with the idea of a breakfast spread. I wanted to keep everything relatively low-sugar, so the amount I did put in needed to be flavourful - in this case, obviously, vanilla sugar. The sticky, meltingly soft persimmons went in next, along with the seeds from half a vanilla bean and the extract. The buttery spread goes on smooth and luxurious, perfect as is or offset with a salty peanut butter on toast. In short, think the vanilla equivalent of Nutella... i.e. irresistible!

Vanilla Persimmon Jam

 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Low n' Slow Baked Asian Pears

One of the best things about biting into an Asian pear is their crunchy, almost explosively juicy nature. They're totally unassuming on the surface, unlike peaches which - when perfectly ripe - demand you be over the sink or outside to break into. No, Asian pears are for all intents and purposes an apple to the outsider, but once their thin skin is punctured those napkins or faucet best be nearby for the deluge of sweet nectar hiding inside.

I wondered, then, if I could take advantage of both the aspects packing this favourite fruit of mine and transform it into a dish that was the best of both. I had been hoarding a Dorie Greenspan recipe in my bookmarks folder for what seems like ages, and since I had these very appley pears in my possession I thought this would be the perfect time to try it out! 

Low n' Slow Baked Asian Pears

What I loved was that the whole thing is nothing more than fruit, sugar, spices, and a touch of butter. In my case, I used wafer-thin slices of Asian pears, a slightly exotic-smelling spice mixture, vanilla sugar and fruity, cold-pressed coconut oil. Then, like how Mother Nature makes diamonds, time, pressure and heat work their magic little by little until out comes this wonderfully silky, comforting, melt-in-your-mouth creation that you can't help but want to dig right into. The original recipe used ramekins, but since mine are in storage in the loft in the basement somewhere unknown to me at this moment I substituted a 6" square glass dish weighed with a small cast iron skillet. 

Low n' Slow Baked Asian PearsWhen I say you want to eat it with everything, you truly do - my family dug into this with vanilla and caramel gelato, plain Greek yogurt, morning oatmeal, pancakes, and simply au natural. In fact, my mom was looking at serving this alongside a pork roast for dinner, but then someone - ahem - ate the last of it as a midday snack.

Shared with Waste Not Want Not Wednesday and Gluten-Free Wednesdays

Monday, April 13, 2015

Moroccan Chicken and Saffron Soup

I was really hoping to make it through the rest of the school year without getting sick, but life definitely has other plans! Luckily, we're big soup eaters here, and a bowl of broth is never too far away, ready to be jazzed up with whatever my stomach can handle at the time (which, at the moment, is plain brown rice and maybe a diced carrot or two). Over the Winter, my mom ate a lot of hearty soups herself, and she still attributes her ability to avoid the bulk of the flu season to her daily bowls of comfort. It's easy to see why - they're always homemade, packed with veggies, lean proteins and healthy spices that fend off even the most stubborn colds.

Moroccan Chicken and Saffron Soup

Take, for example, this gorgeous and exotic concoction. Iron and protein packed chicken thighs, chickpeas and veggies toting fibre and vitamins and comforting pearls of whole grain couscous are just the headliners in the pot, backed up by an exotic array of spices including the elusive, expensive saffron. It smells like absolute Heaven while simmering, which would be reason enough to cook up a pot every few weeks if those darn crocus stamens weren't so pricey these days (and those darn squirrels would stop eating my calendula - a passable substitute - every year).                 

Whether you're beginning your foray into Moroccan food (and really, you know my love for all things Moroccan!) or you're needing one of those mid-day "pick-me-up" meals at work, this soup is perfect. Filling, flavourful, with that little "something extra" that keeps you coming back for more, it's a delicious "bridge food" for the seasons too!