Monday, April 14, 2014

Superpower Granola Bars #EatAtoZChallenge

I proudly admit that I'm a Zumba-holic. The three days of the week that I have free, you can be sure to find me bright and early dancing away to the music and grinning like a fool the whole way through. Seeing how tired we get after just one class a day, I can't imagine how the instructors must feel after several! 

One of my weekly instructors moved on to another venture a few weeks ago, and as a farewell gift and thank-you for all her hard work I made her something she normally bought tons of - granola-esque power bars. I basically cleaned out the health food store - turned - pantry making these, making sure that each one would be chock full of fibre, protein and complex carbs (essentials for every athelete!). Psyllium husks (a great binder for all sorts of baking!), thick cut oats, leftover cold cereal, wheat bran, cooked quinoa, maple syrup, almonds, two types of seeds, dried fruit, protein powder and peanut butter all found a home, none of them competing with any other. I also just baked them, so that they would stay moist and chewy, not to mention freeze well.  

Superpower Granola Bars

I wrapped each cooled bar individually, just like the store-bought ones, so that grab-and-go would be simple and mess-free. I froze some for my mom to take to the gym with her too (hey, I come by the gym-rat thing honestly), which came as a pleasant surprise when the inevitable post-exercise munchies it. Being just slightly sweet from the dried fruit and maple syrup, the bars won't make you want to chug a bottle of water after having one for breakfast either (although we should be drinking more of that anyways!). Rather, the nutty, toasty flavour of the grains, seeds and nuts shines through and makes you feel good about your treat, not like you've swallowed a candy bar. 

This month's Eat A to Z Challenge hosted by  Meal Planning Magic, Sparkles and a Stove and Alida’s Kitchen is all about the foods beginning with "E" and "F". There are no eggs in these vegan bars, but a good number of figs found their way into the mix, making them a great addition to the roundup!

Eat A to Z Healthy Recipe Challenge

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lemon Poppyseed Swirl Cookies (#SundaySupper)

I always think of lemons when I think of springtime. It's kind of ironic, actually, since we can buy the best specimens (not to mention the "gourmet" ones like Meyers) in the dead of Winter, but there's something about the freshness and tang of the citrus that seems to hearken the "newness" of the year. I've even been trying (for years...) to grow my own Meyer lemon tree, but no luck yet :-(. Regardless of the season or the type, lemons remain one of my favourite fruits - both for cooking and baking and raw in dressings, drinks and pastas. I've been known to eat them straight too... but then again I'm not normal!

Growing up one of my major lemon-craving quenchers were the lemon poppyseed muffins the doughnut shop by our house sold. They were a bit smaller than the behemoth Costco ones we could get at the recreation centre, but they tasted miles better and really solidified my taste for lemon-poppyseed treats. Since those early days, I've done a fair number of recipes with the combination - Gluten Free Lemon Poppy - Seed Cookies, a Sticky Lemon-Poppy Loaf and Poppyseed - Layered Lemon Loaves, a (to-die for!) Strawberry Laced Lemon - Poppyseed Cake and even cupcakes. But I wanted to try something different with the combination this time around, since I was making them as a housewarming gift for a co-worker who is as unique as the day is long (and is awesome for it!). I love cinnamon-swirl bread and pinwheel cookies, so I got the bug in my head to try a swirled lemon-poppyseed cookie - the key was finding a decent base recipe for rolling out (and up), not to mention one that used stuff I had on hand since I was not about to go to the store at 8PM on a Sunday night.

I dug through my mom's recipe box and found a clipping from (as far as I can tell) Good Housekeeping, which I used as my base. With a few modifications (namely making it eggless, less sugary and of course lemon flavoured!) I knew I had what I was looking for - and after a short rest on the countertop (basically the length of time it took to pout away the ingredients and do the dishes) it rolled out perfectly smooth, allowing me to sprinkle it with the poppyseeds and give it the "jelly-roll" treatment. Since I was slicing it instead of using cookie cutters, I stuck my log in the freezer to firm up before taking my sharpest serrated knife to it. They baked up bright, lemony and perfectly sweet-tart - definitely not like any storebought cookies and perfect for their intended recipient!

Lemon Poppyseed Swirl Cookies

This week our #SundaySupper group is featuring recipes that are "stuffed, rolled, and wrapped". There are a ton of divine treats being shared, so check them out and say hi! Amy from Kimchi Mom is our hostess this week, thanks Amy!

Starters and Snacks
Endive Stuffed with Blue Cheese, Walnuts and Honey by Shockingly Delicious
Filipino Turon (Banana Lumpia) by Killer Bunnies, Inc
Arepas de Queso by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
Chicken Tinga Taquitos with Avocado Cream by Savvy Eats
Eggy Rice Wraps by Jane’s Adventures in Dinner
Puff Pastry and Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus by The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
Onigiri by Brunch With Joy
Stuffed Pierogie Shells by Seduction in The Kitchen
Scotch Eggs with Sriracha Dipping Sauce by Run DMT
Celery Root Lettuce Wraps with Beluga Lentils by The Wimpy Vegetarian

Entrees and Mains
Rouladen by The Not So Cheesy Kitchen
Stracci di Antrodoco by Manu’s Menu
Eggplant Rollatini by MealDiva
Chicken Cordon Blue by The Foodie Army Wife
Stuffed Whole Baby Savoy Cabbages by Food Lust People Love
Chicken Taco Egg Rolls by Table for Seven
Shrimp Tempura Roll by Small Wallet, Big Appetite
Lemon and Herb Stuffed Salmon by Nosh My Way
Tamales de Rajas y Requeson (Roasted Poblano Tamales) by La Cocina de Leslie
Bademjan Shekam-por by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Mascarpone Blueberry Stuffed French Toast by gotta get baked
Korean-style Meaty Stuffed Potatoes by kimchi MOM
Strawberries and Cream Pancake Roll by Curious Cuisiniere
Creamy Goat Cheese Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes by Take A Bite Out of Boca
Greek Rolled Meatloaf by Kudos Kitchen By Renee
Shrimp Burritos Con Queso by Cooking On The Ranch
Bee-Bim Bop Sushi Rolls by NinjaBaking.com
Angel Hair Shrimp Lettuce Wraps by Family Foodie
Genoa Salami and Kalamata Olive Calzones by The Texan New Yorker
Zucchini Boats by Confessions of a Culinary Diva
Girl’s Camp Breakfast Burritos by Hot Momma’s Kitchen Chaos
Crab Louie Stuffed Chicken by Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
Rustic “Wrapped” Tart with Ramps by Delaware Girl Eats
Potato Roll Stuffed with Ham and Cheese in Red Sause by Basic N Delicious
Ham, Turkey and Cheddar Turnovers by Magnolia Days
Crispy Chipotle Shrimp Burritos by Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen
Caprese Stuffed Chicken Breasts by Peanut Butter and Peppers
Pizza Pockets by girlichef
Ham and Cheese Crescent “Roll” Stromboli by Rants From My Crazy Kitchen
Beef Wellington Braciole by Cupcakes & Kale Chips
Greek Salad Wrap by The Messy Baker
Cabbage Venison Lettuce Wraps With Fresh Herbs by Sue’s Nutrition Buzz

All Things Sweet
Easy Apple Dumplings by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls by Chocolate Moosey
Chocolate Hazelnut Rugelach by Desserts Required
Chocolate Cake Roll by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Cannoli Stuffed French Toast by Momma’s Meals
Lemon Poppyseed Swirl Cookies by What Smells So Good
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Egg Rolls by Melanie Makes
Raspberry and Lemon-Curd Mascarpone Stuffed French Toast by La Bella Vita Cucina
Chocolate Chip Banana Sweet Rolls by Big Bear’s Wife
Orange Chocolate Swiss Roll by Noshing With The Nolands
Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookies by Alida’s Kitchen
Flourless Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies by Pies and Plots

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter each Sunday. We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET and you do not want to miss out on the fun. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? Click here: Sunday Supper Movement

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Szechuan Stir Fry

We are a family of stir-fry lovers. Pretty much, if you can toss it in a saute pan with a ton of veggies, a little sauce of some kind and pair it with a carb, it's fair game at our table. Since my mom is now retired, there's a wedding coming up in the near future and meat is ever-more expensive these days, meatless meals have become routine - like it or not. Although my stepdad is a little resistant to the shift, my mom and stepbrother are gladly embracing it... especially since my stepbrother would rather eat tofu than chicken or turkey!

The key to any good stir-fry, regardless of whether it's meat, seafood or tofu, is to season well, and often. Yes, the pan's heat adds an element of "browned" taste to the food, but without those key basic spices, herbs and sauces you might as well just steam the food. I was lucky enough to still have some  Szechuan sauce from San-J in my fridge (we love that stuff), and I used it as a jumping-off point for our dinner - marinating extra-firm tofu in it overnight, before using a mix of tamari, apple juice, ginger, garlic and even more Szechuan sauce as a finishing flavour punch for a pan full of caramelized tofu, tons of veggies and brown Basmati rice. Not only did the combination taste fantastic - a blend of tangy, sweet and spicy - but it used up all sorts of leftovers (which for the uninitiated is really the purpose behind stir-frying anything!). We even had enough left over for my mom to take for lunch when she volunteered at my school - a meal that garnered very interested looks from everyone in the lunch room!

Szechuan Stir Fry

Shared with Waste Not Want Not Wednesday

Monday, April 7, 2014

Cracker Jack Bread

Have you ever had (or do you even remember) Cracker Jack? It's still around, but what was once a must-have at every baseball game has fallen by the wayside popularity-wise. I'll always remember my dad using their catchphrase "peanuts, popcorn and a prize" to refer to an olio of items or situations. 

The Boy Scouts near me were selling packages of their signature Kettle Corn (which is to die for, albeit not great nutritionally) at the mall the other day, and I grabbed a pack out of nostalgia than anything else. When I got home, I was stuck with the question as to what to do with my impulse buy - eating it was out thanks to my food intolerances, and it was a little early to start Christmas garlands. A little Googling led me to a recipe that sounded absolutely perfect for my haul - Popcorn Bread.

You can thank Marcy Goldman for the original inspiration, since she wrote about her Hot & Buttery Popcorn Bread in A Passion for Baking, but of course I needed to make it my own. With the sweet, sticky Kettle Corn at my disposal, I started thinking about Cracker Jack and how I could incorporate all those elements into a loaf. I bumped up the sweetness with some honey and stevia, cracked in an egg and finished it all off with a handful of chopped, toasted peanuts. The loaf crowned beautifully over the pan, baking up golden and smelling of everything good about the snack food.

Cracker Jack BreadAs I was taking my prize out of the oven, my mom walked in and asked what type of bread I had created this time. When I said "popcorn bread", though, the look on my mom's face (and her subsequent doubts as to the taste it would have) had me second guessing - had I really wasted the time and energy on something she would hate? Bless her, though, she had a piece the next morning with breakfast... and another two with lunch. In fact, half the loaf disappeared before she admitted that she had prejudged the recipe and in fact was really enjoying it!

Even if you've never dug into a bag of peanuts, popcorn and a prize, I challenge you to give this bread a shot. Who knows, it might become your new breakfast staple - and how often can you claim popcorn as part of a nutritious breakfast?

Shared with YeastSpotting.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Duff Goldman's Zebra Cake Mix (#ProductReview)

My mom's birthday party a few weeks ago meant I finally had an excuse to try out the other cake mix by Duff Goldman that I was graciously sent to review - Duff™ Zebra Cake Mix. When it comes to making zebra cake from scratch (like I've seen on so many gorgeous blogs), my results have been less than spectacular - the batter is the wrong consistency, or the oven time / temperature was off, or some other issue befell my would-be creation. Since I had found success with the Red Velvet Cake Mix, I had high hopes for this one - after all, how hard is mixing powder, oil, water and eggs?

Mom's Birthday Cake

Like the last mix, Duff's version of Zebra Cake batter is priced higher than it's other "marble cake" competitors - $3.49 on the official website (where you can also use the code NUMMYCAKE20 for a 20% discount) and more at places like Michael's. That said, the ingredients are more suited for cake 
While the cake eventually turned out beautifully, it wasn't without some problems along the way. The back of the box indicates the mix will make one 9" cake, while the website states "one package makes one 9"x13” cake or two double-layer 8" or one 9" round cakes". If I'm to believe the box, a single 9" layer seems like a bit of a rip-off for the cost. If I gauge portions by the website, that means needing four 8" or 9" pans when normally a mix for a 9x13" only requires two. That's a huge disparity in approximate yield. In addition, the box also states to bake the mix for 55 minutes. I have never baked a layer cake for longer than 30 or 35 minutes, regardless of how much sour cream, butter and milk is in there. 55 minutes is a recipe for a charcoal brick. I would strongly suggest the producers take a look at their packaging vs. their website and decide on some clear directions in order to avoid turning off potential repeat buyers.

Mom's Birthday CakeAfter making the batter, it's clear that a 9" springform pan is the best (and really, only) way to go about making the cake. I don't completely understand why they would suggest a 9x13", since it lacks the necessary depth to form proper rings of batter, but if you're not fussy about design you can technically fit most of the batter into one (with a cupcake or two left over). Using a springform pan is also more in line with the box's bake time of 55 minutes, although I still needed to pull ours out with about 5 minutes to go since it was beginning to bake a little too far. Like the last mix I made, the low protein, low gluten flour in the Zebra mix helped create and keep the tender,  fluffy texture of the finished cake - making it a delight to eat. Surprisingly, the crumb was also strong enough to sustain torting with a sharp serrated knife, although it did break apart when I tried to move it to the cake platter (nothing frosting can't fix!). After the party, leftovers only lasted about 3 days in the fridge before being demolished, but they were nowhere near dry or stale at that point.

Mom's Birthday Cake
I was also given a can of  Duff™ Chocolate Frosting to use with this cake. While it tasted fine, it was really nothing special to write home about, and given the price I'd rather buy a store-brand can that tastes exactly the same. Compared to my homemade Rich Chocolate Yoghurt Frosting mixed with Nutella that I used as a filling, the canned stuff was just boring.

Mom's Birthday Cake
All that said, is the mix worth it? For me, this one isn't - if I have to go the "box" route in the future, I'd rather buy two separate mixes (with clear directions and smaller price tags) and make my own "marbled" effect, not to mention buying a cheaper frosting to doctor up with liqueur, peanut butter, extracts or cocoa powder. For those looking for a more "gourmet" shortcut cake, I would definitely suggest a Duff™ Red Velvet Cake Mix and Duff™ White Mocha Cake Mix though - you won't be disappointed!

Mom's Birthday Cake

See all the products on Duff.com, and don't forget to use the promo code NUMMYCAKE20 for a 20% discount on all products!

*Disclaimer: I received the cake mixes and frostings free of charge from Gartner Studios, but was not compensated for any review whatsoever. All opinions and photos are my own.