Friday, July 28, 2017

Supreme Zucchini Spice Bread

Unassuming to the eye, this moist and tender spice loaf is packed with three - count them - THREE cups of shredded homegrown zucchini.

Supreme Zucchini Spice Bread

There is no way this zucchini bread should work. According to the science of me, that 3 cups of zucchini just simply shouldn't fit into a quickbread with only 1 1/2 cups of flour. Yet, the recipe I adapted from somewhere (sorry, lost the source) does - and not only does it work, it tastes fantabulous and stays moist for ages. 

Like many gardeners (and their families, friends and neighbours), we have come into the "zucchini glut" season opener strong.Every afternoon my stepdad comes in from the garden bearing armloads of the squash, and with our fridge already full of the stuff they're being left on what seems like every available surface in the house! Unlike some of our past years, the tomatoes and peppers haven't quite kept up their end of the bargain, so something as obvious as ratatouille just isn't practical right now.

Supreme Zucchini Spice Bread

While zucchini is finding its way into almost everything savoury we eat, I had to break down and power through at least a few of the behemoths in the form of sweet treats. The problem with most zucchini bread recipes is that they either call for gluts of oil or tons of eggs in exchange for maybe a cup of grated zuke. That wasn't going to cut it here, so when I found this recipe I figured that, if it didn't bake all the way through (and how could it, with only 1 1/2 cups of flour and 3 cups of zucchini?) I could slice it up and give it the biscotti treatment. I modified it, of course, swapping some of the oil for a vanilla coffee creamer we had in the fridge, reducing the sugar and adding in a bunch of spices for flavour, but until it came out of the oven perfectly baked I refused to hold out hope. 

The first slice was delicious - and surprisingly soft and fine textured. Given the whole wheat flour in the batter I was prepared for that slight "rustic" mouthfeel, which isn't bad at all - just a given - but this didn't have any of that. Instead, it was a bouquet of aromas and flavours with an unending moisture that didn't become gummy. I took it to work and it disappeared - and that's in a staff room full of vegetable-haters!

That said, this recipe definitely has the potential to turn to spicy zucchini soup - if you don't squeeze the zucchini dry. In fact, I made the second loaf with frozen, shredded zucchini that I thawed, drained and then squeezed dry, and had to add a little extra liquid (in that case, half-and-half, I didn't have any more creamer) to compensate and get the batter looking "normal" again. I also opted for "fine" shreds (thank you, food processor), which helps exude a bit more moisture.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Chocolate Rhubarb Preserve - Toast Topper #80

Chocolate Rhubarb Preserve. It's an unusual combination: 70% cocoa chocolate, local honey and sour homegrown rhubarb, but I promise you the sweet-tart flavours willing have you licking the spoon!

Chocolate Rhubarb Preserve

If you asked me what to pair with rhubarb, I guarantee you that dark chocolate would not be one of the things I would list. Berries, raisins, honey and sugar, sure. But rhubarb has such a pervasive sour punch and never-ending stringiness that adding another bitter flavour just seemed... wrong.

That said, leave it to the brilliance of food bloggers to come up with something incredible. Skoraq Cooks had posted a recipe with just this pairing a few years ago that not only paired sour rhubarb and bitter chocolate, but added molasses as well. Since I was making this for my mom (not a huge rhubarb fan, but a lover of chocolate) I swapped out the relatively bitter molasses for local honey, and added tart cherry juice (from Cheribundi's lovely gift pack) for a hint of fruitiness.

As the rhubarb, cherry juice, honey and sugar cook down, the sweet-sour flavour comes into full force. The sugar also somewhat caramelizes, adding a rich depth of flavour to just the rhubarb alone. What got interesting was when I added the chocolate and salt. All of a sudden the mixture went from "strawberry rhubarb jam minus the strawberry" to something so balanced that it almost didn't make it to the toast. In fact, both Mom and I had a spoonful from the pot while it was still warm, and would definitely use it as a topping for cheesecake or chocolate ice cream. Here's to experimenting, and cheers to chocolate for making everything better!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Aubergine Bake 2.0

Aubergine Bake 2.0 - it's what's for dinner! Spicy, savoury and filling while staying 100% vegan, low fat and rich in fibre, vitamins A & C, protein and calcium.

Aubergine Bake 2.0

Sometimes a recipe just needs a re-jig, you know? It's been almost 9 years since I posted this layered eggplant / zucchini / mushroom dish, and since I've grown and developed my skills over the years, I figured I'd make it again. That, and I needed portable, reheatable meals to take with me on various trips where I wouldn't have anything but a kettle and microwave!

The general process of making the baked casserole is essentially the same - broil thin slices of eggplant, spread some tomato sauce and sautee up a mess of veggies with spices and a generous pinch of chile flakes. The spices I use now have been expanded a bit, lending a greater depth of flavour, allowing me to nix the vegan Mozzarella (an affordable brand of which has become impossible to find here). While I still top the works with vegan Parmesan and breadcrumbs, I opt for gluten free panko now for and extra crunch.

Aubergine Bake 2.0

While I can certainly attest it is delicious after microwaving, it is still infinitely better when reheated in the oven, and sits beautifully on top of a bed of rice (I like red rice these days). In fact, I think I might have it for lunch!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Chocolate Hazelnut Beet Brownies

Chocolate Hazelnut Beet Brownies are rich and decadent with a delicate worthiness and a wallop of nutty flavour. Perfect with a scoop of frozen yoghurt or a sprinkle of berries!

Chocolate Hazelnut Beet Brownies

I was fortunate enough to grow up in Canada, which (along with many other pluses) sold Nutella in every grocery store. My sister, in particular, was (and is) a Nutella addict, and I definitely appreciate the allure of combining rich nuts with decadent chocolate (as the peanut butter cups I recently shared clearly exhibit). The women in my family also have a deep-rooted affinity for brownies - and while I've tried making the infamous Three (really Four)- Ingredient Brownies I have to admit I found them rather lacking in hazelnut flavour, being more sweet and almost verging on hard rather than chewy and nutty.

Coincidentally, when I was cleaning out our deep freezer during the Green Two-Protein Curry purge, I came across a plastic bag with two very large, roasted and peeled, beets. Since I knew one of them was a Zentaur beet (originally intended for cattle feed, but ridiculously sweet and delicious) and I was almost positive the other one was one of my favourite Lutzes, I immediately started thinking of what I could bake up to capitalize on their sweet, earthy flavours. Anything chocolate is an absolute given win with beets (especially when they have been super slow-roasted like these), and flipping through my bookmarked recipes-to-make I came across one from Early Morning Farm for chocolate beet brownies.

Now, I've done beet brownies before. I actually made both this recipe and a batch of my Squidgy Superfood Brownies at the same time, just to use up all the beets. This recipe needed something to make it stand out, earn it a page in my brownie recipe file. Realizing I hadn't made a really good hazelnut brownie, and not a hazelnut brownie at all without Nutella, my mind was made up. It didn't hurt that we had some hazelnutty chocolate stashed in the freezer from the holidays, which I knew would make a great topping. Everything came together swimmingly, and while the hardest part is always waiting for it to cool, I stand by my belief that putting the pan directly into the freezer from the oven equals the best fudgy texture. With no leavening agents, this is nowhere on the cakey spectrum, which is exactly how brownies should be (IMHO).

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Chocolate and Roasted Cherry "Scones"

These Chocolate and Roasted Cherry Scones are gluten free, dairy free and full of Summer cherry flavour.

Chocolate and Roasted Cherry Scones

There is a good reason why I don't "get" the whole Paleo diet thing.

Growing up eating everything and anything (granted "paleo" wasn't even a thing back then), I became used to the textures and tastes of certain things. If we wanted a cupcake, we had a cupcake. Biscuits were flaky and buttery. Cookies were (ideally) chewy and full of good stuff. Flour was just something that was a "given" when you baked treats. When I started baking gluten free, most of the recipes I made were (and are) designed to emulate the "regular" treats in texture and taste, and by and large they do.

The Paleo thing, though, is a whole other ball-game. The creators of the diet claim the food "approved" for consumption is what the cavemen ate, like fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, and nuts, but no grain. Grains are what give most baked goods structure and body, not to mention the texture we're accustomed to. Take those away, and what you make might be called a cookie, but you'll definitely know it isn't. Whether the grainless diet arugument holds water is up for debate, but for my two cents, I'd rather eat a real cupcake than an unsweetened, dehydrated mass of ground seeds and nuts smeared in avocado and called a cupcake. If you're going to eat like a caveman, it's whole, unprocessed foods and that's it. None of them had Vitamixes, ovens or freezers, after all.

But I digress. Someone had given me a copy of Brittany Angell's book Every Last Crumb for Christmas a couple years ago, touting her scone recipe as being nothing short of amazing. I'm willing to give anything a go, and gave the recipe an honest shot.

As you can see above, my "scones" look nothing like traditional scones, and they certainly didn't act like traditional scones as I was trying to make them, the mixture being more "batter" than "dough". I don't understand why I had an issue that clearly other bloggers and Brittany Angell didn't (except I went for the "non-dried" fruit option), but I had to make these in a springform pan and bake them for a significant amount of time before cutting wedges was even an option. My changes are given in the recipe below, which still tasted delicious, albeit more of a cake than something to spread jam on. I wound up compromising in the end, melting some almond butter for a drizzle overtop when served.

Have you had any experiences baking Paleo? What are your tips / frustrations?