Monday, December 2, 2019

Ginger Candied Spoon Fruit

Ginger Candied Spoon Fruit is a spicy and sweet combination of Asian pears and apples macerated in sugar and two forms of ginger. A spoonful on waffles or stirred into oatmeal is a delicious way to start the day, or top ice cream for a zingy dessert!

I love ginger, and I'm not alone. In fact, a good 2/3 of my holiday baking this year features the spice, and when I go out for sushi with my mom we fight over the slices of pickled gari that come on the plate. I'm also a huge sucker for Asian pears, and in the winter when they are in their prime I hit up the Asian grocery by my work and stock up - sometimes too much! This recipe proved to be the answer to that problem and my lust for ginger everything - especially with the digestive issues that also seem to pop up in this time of excess and sedentary living!

These macerated apples and pears get cooked in a super gingery syrup that infuses every bit of the fruit, making them almost bits of candy in the jar. While making it is a process, it is 3/4 hands-off and the reward is so worth it! I'm telling you, I made 2 jars to "test it out" on Saturday and one is already gone, lost to ice cream desserts and oatmeal breakfasts. I don't know how true it is about ginger keeping colds at bay, but I can tell you it's tasty medicine if that's the case!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Tomato Chickpea Soup (Pressure Canned)

Tomato Chickpea Soup is flavoured with cumin, ginger, garlic, garam masala, basil and curry powder for a spicy - but not hot - dinner ready in the pantry! Jars of this will be welcome in the cold months to come!

After waking up to an ice storm and frigid temperatures, it's official - we are into soup season. Since I acquired a pressure canner a few years ago, I spent pieces of my summers making jars of homemade soup for when the school year started again and cooking more or less transitioned to "quick and easy". The other great thing about canning soup and stews is that they make awesome holiday gifts - my Habitant Pea Soup is a regular feature in my gift baskets because it seems to be everyone's favourite (plus it's gluten free and vegan) but I also like to add a hearty and spicy soup to the lineup - both for others and for me!

When I was in university, the days the cafeteria had Chana Masala on the menu were some of the best. Ottawa, in case you've never been, gets insanely cold and snowy come wintertime, and the spiced, tomatoey chickpeas never got the "weird" texture of some of the other steam table items. This soup carries many of the same flavours as my favourite Indian entree, but with extra broth perfect for soaking up rice or slurping with a spoon. I actually prefer to partially cook some brown rice and add it to the soup as it heats on the stove to cook it through and thicken the soup, and mom added chopped sweet potatoes to hers for a similar effect and a sweeter taste.

By the way, if you don't have a pressure canner, no worries! Use 4 cups fully cooked chickpeas (not just soaked and flash-cooked) and simmer the soup for 45 minutes, adding the chickpeas for the last 15. For a creamy soup, puree everything - beans and all. Hearty, healthy and delicious when it's too cold for words outside!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Pizza Won Tons

These Pizza Won Tons are the easiest pizza pockets you'll ever make - and theyre just as variable as your standard pie. Get the kids involved making these too and your after school snack team is locked down!

Photo by Laura R.
I'm hard pressed to find a child who does not like pizza in some way, shape or form. In my five years teaching Home Economics, the highlight of each school year has been making something "pizza-like". Nothing has been such a hit as these turnovers - full of gooey cheese and sauce while being deceptively simple, quick to make and absolutely delicious.

I'm also a huge fan of kids being self sufficient, and while these won tons are tasty, they are also ridiculously simplistic in design - even though the recipe calls for "making your own" pizza sauce. In fact the recipe is so easy to whip up that even my Grade 1's are able to make it start to finish without my help (except with the oven). The crunch of the dumpling wrapper after being baked in the oven contrasts with the goo in the middle, and these are even great room temperature - the week or so after we make them in class, I see more than one student pull them out at noon! While I keep my version simple for classes, these are also super variable - minced pepperoni, ham, mushrooms and peppers all work in these too as long as the bits are small.

Of course, just because these are a huge hit with "my" kids doesn't mean grownups don't love them too - a batch of these were brought along to my very first date with N and enjoyed immensely (the saying about the way to a man's heart is true!), and both my parents have gladly taken care of leftovers too. For game days, movie nights or even just friends coming over for drinks, these are a perfect accompaniment - and since everything freezes well, make a double batch, bake and freeze before reheating gently at go time!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Caramelized Spiced Apples

Caramelized Apples are a warming treat any time of day and combine the rich flavours of butter, cinnamon and raw sugar. The trick is to bloom the cinnamon in salted butter before adding the sugar and fruit - way more developed notes in the spice and the apple chunks get fully coated.

While there may be snow on the ground and sub-zero temperatures outside, it is still officially Fall, and that means that for now our local orchards are still selling the last of this years crop at decent prices. I was actually inspired to make these after making apple squares with my Home Ec classes - the kids were stealing the spiced apples out of the bowl (not that I blame them) and were asking if we could make "just the apples". I haven't had sauteed apples in a dog's age, so they immediately found themselves on my to-do list!

Of course, I brought my somewhat more updated knowledge of cooking to the proverbial table when making them this time, as opposed to my child years where "baked apples" and the like were done in the microwave without butter at all. This time, I played on what I learned about blooming spices in curry and cooked the cinnamon in the butter first, allowing it to infuse before getting the caramel and finally apples going. Secondly, I took my time with the cooking, allowing the apples to cook through but keep their shape and the syrup to reduce to a caramel sauce consistency. The possibilities for these were endless - mom snagged a scoop to put on her oatmeal this morning while I packed some into turnovers and an apple crumble too. They keep for a decent time in the fridge but I wouldn't recommend freezing them unless your aim is applesauce - which given the ingredients going on wouldn't be a bad thing at all!

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Seeded Oatmeal Apple Loaf

Can't you just imagine biting into this crusty, seed coated loaf of Seeded Oatmeal Apple Loaf? Made with a dose of sourdough starter and shredded apples for a sweet tang, the low rising loaf is perfect for smearing with peanut butter for breakfast.

With the blustery winds and snow outside courtesy of this week's weather, I felt like there was no better reason to get into the kitchen and bake my favourite thing - bread. It helps that mom is a bread-lover (or is it fanatic?) since I haven't eaten "real" bread in over a decade, and her weekly request allows me to be as creative as I care to be! This time I was inspired by a recipe that appeared in my feed reader using not only the Fall flavours of apples and oats but a favourite ingredient in my house - sourdough. With a bushel of local apples in our cold cellar begging for a use (other than the ubiquitous apple pies and squares mom creates each season), I pilfered a few and got to work!

This recipe is not a true sourdough - as in it uses yeast for a leavening boost. The sourdough does add a wonderful tang to offset the nuttiness of the seeds and oats and the sweetness of the apples, although not an obtrusive one (I love straight sourdough, but I wanted the other flavours here). The seed crust is, in my opinion, the best part of this recipe as it adds a great crunchy texture to the moist crumb and leaves "bits" to pick off the cutting board when you slice it! The loaf has a high hydration due to the apple, soaked oats, sourdough and extra water, so it does not rise overly tall - when I make this again I'm going to try putting it in a springform pan to see if I can get some height. However, the low rise does have one side benefit - a long slice is just wide enough to fit perfectly in your mouth, bruschetta-style! So load up your slices, toasted or not, with slices of Cheddar (a la Canadian apple pie) or peanut butter and honey (mom's favourite) and enjoy!