Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pumpkin Chip Bars #creativecookieexchange

For as long as I can remember, my favourite holiday has been Halloween. While Christmas was fun (and gift-filled) and Easter had it's chocolate, Santa's visit demanded wearing fancy, "don't get anything on it" clothes and the Easter Bunny's calling card almost always detracted from my birthday party attendee list. Halloween, on the other hand, allowed for the wearing of (usually) comfortable, custom-made-by-mom costumes and more candy exposure than I got the rest of the year. Given that the holiday fell right after we polished off the last of the Thanksgiving turkey, it was the perfect pick-me-up in the Fall too.

Ironically, with all the pumpkin that abounds around Halloween and Thanksgiving, I never was the kind of person to crave squash-filled desserts. When served a sliver of Grandma's pumpkin pie (with the "just try it" look alongside), the crust disappeared way before the filling would, and the orange-tinted cookies and cupcakes on the bake sale table at school were simply ignored in favour of the chocolate Rice Krispie balls or Jell-O "Jiggler" shapes. As an adult, I've come to enjoy pumpkin's slightly sweet, rich flavour and texture in savoury dishes, and while I still don't like it's "pie" format I don't mind a stack of pancakes, the occasional muffin or nibbling a well spiced cookie laced with the vegetable.

So, given that the theme for the Creative Cookie Exchange this month is Halloween, and when I think of Hallowe'en the first things I recall are pumpkin picking (and carving) and the candy haul, what better treat to share than a candy-laced pumpkin bar? It's the perfect home for any end bits of chocolate and toffee left after the trick-or-treaters sate themselves, and with tofu, applesauce, wheat bran and wheat germ mixed into the batter, it's even slightly healthy too! Luckily, the recipe makes a nice big batch, because you'll want to freeze a bunch for lunches and snacks down the road. While I haven't done it myself, I hear tell that semi-frozen bars make delicious ice-cream-sandwich "bread" too!

Pumpkin Chip Bars

If you are a blogger and want to join in the #creativecookieexchange 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:

Spider Covered Chocolate Chip Cookies from The Spiced Life
Pumpkin Chip Bars from What Smells So Good?
Headless Gingerbread Men from Noshing with the Nolands
Swirly Halloween Cookies from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
Enchanted Pumpkin Cookies from NinjaBaking
The Witch's Cauldron Cookies from Cookie Dough & Oven Mitt
Spider Peanut Butter Cookies from Sweet Cinnamon & Honey
Witch Finger Cookies from Karen’s Kitchen Stories
Pumpkin Macarons from A Baker’s House
French Butter Cookie (Bones) from Made with Love
Pumpkin Cookie Bars from Food Lust People Love
Spooky Almond Cookies from Basic N Delicious

Pumpkin Chip Bars (with Homemade Toffee!)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tender Whole Wheat Bread #SundaySupper

Being a foodie, especially one with a penchant for unique ingredients and nutritiously decadent dishes, can be an expensive venture. Preparing all my meals at home (save the odd special-occasion lunch or dinner) gives me finer control over the ingredient quality and quantity, not to mention allowing me to use every last bit of what I buy in some way. Peelings, bones and other vegetable scraps become fantastic stocks that keep my freezer (and belly) full all year and vary with the season, from lighter vegetable and blonde chicken broths in the Spring and Summer to the dark, roasted turkey and beef stocks of the cold Winter months. Apple peels become "twig" crisps in the dehydrator, corn cobs become stock, jelly and eventually firewood, stale bread becomes stuffing, and almost-gone tomatoes and other garden vegetables become perfect freezer stashes for future pastas and casseroles once roasted. What doesn't fit in the freezer or dehydrator gets canned in one form or another, further extending the time I can enjoy the flavours of my favourite produce. 

Purchase-wise, where I really find the bulk of my savings comes from is the (smart) use of coupons and points-based frequent-buyer clubs, as well as knowing which of my (many) designation "cards" to pull for discounts. For example, as a holistic nutritionist, I can score 15% off my health food store purchases (usually supplements, but occasionally things like stevia too). Buying online can be an economical option as long as you know your prices and the shipping doesn't pull you under - I use it sparingly for items that are hard to find in my relatively small town, and make sure to buy enough quantity to qualify for free shipping. Eating a mostly vegan diet definitely keeps my costs down too, since I don't bother with a lot of junk food or buy pre-made meals slapped with a "vegan" or "organic" label. By saving where I can on the pantry items, I have more room in the budget for produce - almost never bought organically, but rather as local as possible and more importantly flavourful and fresh. To me (and I know many will disagree), I'd rather spend my money on fruits and vegetables I'll enjoy eating and won't go broke devouring en masse than fritter away $4 for a head of lettuce I'll polish off in one meal.

Frugal, fabulous food is the theme of this week's #SundaySupper, and I thought crafting a hearty, delicious and wholesome loaf of bread would be a perfect addition to our collective menu. I had a voucher for Amoré Almonds + Dairy which combined with buttermilk powder and flax seed from the bulk food store made for a moist, tender and flavourful yeast bread that was perfect freshly baked or sliced and frozen for later toast or sandwiches. Our event this week is being co-hosted by T.R. of Gluten Free Crumbley and David of Cooking Chat - thanks!

Tender Whole Wheat Bread

Scrumptious Mains (Breakfast and Dinner)

Satisfying Sides

Sips, Spreads, and Snacks

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.

Sunday Supper Movement

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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bauernbrot (German Farmer's Bread) - #wbd2014

There are few things so truly adored by my family as bread. Whether it's the kid-friendly, "wallpaper paste" white sandwich bread (which I'm not a fan of simply because it's tasteless) or my preferred extra-tangy, thick-crust grain sourdough, we have always had at least two loaves in the house for as long as I can remember, and most often it's more. Along with the toaster-friendly sliced pan breads, our freezer is packed with rolls, tortillas, lavash, pitas, bagels and English muffins - all of which get equal play, but when it comes to my mom's carb-craving weakness she always claims my homemade bread before all else.

With that kind of ringing endorsement, it's all I can do to indulge her when she asks for something specific! Recently, we discovered the Prince Edward County rye bread from Stonemill Bakehouse at the farmer's market and fell in love with the rich, tangy, nutty and slightly earthy flavour of the Red Fife, dark rye, oats and sunflower seeds contained within. However, at close to $7 a loaf, it is a rather expensive indulgence, and I have yet to find it outside of Toronto anyway. So with that in mind, I did what any other bread baker with a sourdough starter (and spare time on the weekend) could do. I took the major components of the storebought bread and made her *my* version - tangy with yoghurt and sourdough starter and crusty from a multi-temperature baking process, all based off a German country loaf recipe. Filling and hearty enough to stand up to toasting, spreads, open face sandwiches and even serving with a bowl of soup or stew, it's a loaf with definite staying power on our menu, authentic or not! 

Bauernbrot (German Farmer's Bread)

Today is World Bread Day! The idea of WBD is to honour our daily bread by baking a loaf on this day and blog about it. So we can show that baking bread is easy and makes also great fun. Follow World Bread Day on Facebook and Pinterest and use #wbd2014 for your post, tweets etc.

World Bread Day 2014 (submit your loaf on October 16, 2014)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Carob Zucchini Cookies #EatA2ZRecipeChallenge

I love baking for "my kids" (and co workers!) at school. The palates and adventurous personalities of the students, from our 15 month olds to the grade 3's I teach Home Ec to, constantly amaze me - they will give almost anything a try, and a good portion of them would rather eat 3 helpings of corned beef and cabbage during the school lunch than extra pieces of bread! I've managed to have them try (and like) tofu, beans, and parsnips, too - while refusing to play the "hide it" game.

Of course, I have yet to find a single person of any age who would turn down a cookie, even if the ones being offered look and sound a little odd to the conventional Western mindset. With these cookies, I used zucchini to add an "oatmeal" texture and moistness without a "vegetal" flavour. In place of cocoa powder (which a lot of the younger kids find too bitter), carob worked really well - while it isn't a perfect chocolate facsimile, it is naturally sweet and kid friendly! For a richer, slightly nutty flavour, I opted for one of my favourite alternative grains, spelt flour. Spelt flour is a health boon too: with more protein, fats and crude fibre than wheat, and a host of minerals and vitamins, it's a great addition to the baker's pantry.

Carob Zucchini Cookies

These cookies are part of the #EatA2ZRecipeChallenge hosted by Meal Planning Magic, Sparkles and a Stove and Alida’s Kitchen.There is an Eating A to Z Challenge Pinterest board, and you can click here to find even more recipes from past years! If you’re on Twitter, follow us by using the hashtag #EatA2ZRecipeChallenge.

This month is ingredients beginning with "S" or "T", so I chose spelt!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dilly Romano Beans

Every year is an adventure in the backyard for us - my stepdad is forever saving seeds from not only the past year's crops at home, but also from random plants he comes across in his travels. As a result, we have grapes and flowers from B.C., fern-like flower vines from Quebec to the East coast and vegetables from generations of seeds once brought over from Italy and planted by his mother. While not all of the plants thrive (Winter squash being an example), the bean population is never lacking during the warmer months.

The type we grow are Italian flat beans, or fresh Romano beans, long and wide but incredibly tender while young. My stepfamily uses them mostly for salads, blanched and tossed with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, but in my opinion they're delicious done any which way regular green beans can be. Chopped into pieces, they're like snow peas in stir fries and are delicious simply steamed with lemon or sauteed with onions, garlic and mushrooms. I haven't had a chance to try them roasted (I love green bean "fries") but it's definitely on my to-do list next year.

Dilly Romano Beans

One of the things I did attempt this year was pickling the last of our bumper crop, since my stepfamily was off on various vacations and I already had buckets of zucchini and eggplant to go through myself! Knowing that a few people on my Christmas giftee list like "dilly beans", I went that route, simply pairing the fresh herb from the farmer's market with homegrown garlic and pepper in the brine. After setting aside a smaller, uncanned jar (for taste testing!), I sealed the rest of them and set them aside for the holidays. Along with my Sweet and Tangy Pickled Beets, they're definitely the "lookers" of the produce bunch this year - and taste fabulous too!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays