Friday, July 21, 2017

Power Packed Peanut Butter Cups

Between silky layers of chocolate is a protein and fiber filled peanut butter-maple cream. Decadent!

Power Packed "Reeses" Cups

I can't think of something I love more than peanut butter and chocolate together. Whenever we would get chocolates from Purdy's or the rare package from Laura Secord, I'd be in there as soon as I could to claim the salty-sweet treats for myself, and if we were out for ice cream in cottage country, a scoop of Chocolate Peanut Butter would be on my cone! Halloween gave me all the peanut butter cups I wanted out of my sister's bag, and I ate every last one of them with glee.

As I've grown older, though, I've become somewhat pickier with my chocolate confections. While I certainly wouldn't turn anything with the combination down, I'm more on the "bittersweet truffle" train than the "mass produced candy" wagon. Chocolates in any respect don't exactly reek of health and nutrition, but I'd rather enjoy a treat than eat something cheap now. Then I found a recipe that I had to try - a peanut butter cup reminiscent my childhood, but wrapped in dark chocolate, with limited added sugar and with an added kick of  protein and fibre too.

Admittedly, the first batch of filling didn't even make it to the chocolate coating stage. I accidentally over-processed the chickpea and peanut butter mixture in my attempt to make a smooth filling, because I can't follow directions, and it got so thick there was no "spooning" it into cups. However, I have it on good authority that the filling, au naturale, is fantastic and a great addition to ice cream or cumbled on baked apples.

The second time, I paid attention and did it properly - and while it's not a super-sweet mixture it's perfect for the adult palate. For kids, I'd squeeze in some extra honey (which is sweeter than sugar) and use a "lighter" coating chocolate. Also, unlike the packaged treats, these are relatively perishable - either enjoy within a few days stored at room temperature or keep them in the fridge (or freezer - that would be excellent!)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Nanaimo Bar Frozen Yoghurt

This dessert is a vanilla base (with custard powder) peppered with graham cracker crumbs, coconut and chocolate sprinkles. You'll never guess the secret ingredient!

Nanaimo Bar Ice Cream / Fro-Yo

Since I bombarded you with heat on Tuesday, why not enjoy a cooling, refreshing dessert to tame the fire?

I actually made this flavour of frozen treat for my grade 7s and 8s on request. While Nanaimo bars might be one of the most quintessentially Canadian desserts out there, there were two students who had never had one - and the class decided that we had to remedy that situation! Since the younger set was able to enjoy their Confetti Cake Frozen Yoghurt in class and neither time nor equipment was really on our side to make the real deal (or a nut-free version, anyway), I decided that the best, and "Summeriest", thing to do would be to make a frozen yoghurt packed with all the flavours you'd find in a bar.

For those of you unfamiliar with the delicious dessert, Nanaimo bars are basically a three-layered dessert. On the bottom, you'll find a mixture of graham crackers, sugar, cocoa, coconut, (usually) walnuts or almonds and butter that bakes into a firm, textured and sweet crust. That's where the oven requirement ends, though. The second layer is a sweet vanilla custard (traditionally made with the very British Bird's Custard Powder), which chills while a bittersweet chocolate ganache is made and eventually poured into a glorious sheet of deliciousness on top. Then you have to wait again for everything to set up - ideally overnight. See why it would be a little bit of an issue in my 45-minute class period?

However, sticking the basic elements into a frozen yoghurt couldn't have been easier. I used the same tofu-yoghurt-cream base as the Confetti Cake frozen yoghurt, adding extra custard powder, corn syrup and sugar to make up for the lack of cake mix. As it churned, in went the "crust" ingredients - graham cracker crumbs, shredded coconut and (in place of ganache) bittersweet chocolate sprinkles that I had found in a little European deli by my house. The mixture passed the "taste test" by my mom (a bona fide Nanaimo bar lover) and I packed it up for school.

I have never - and I mean never - seen anything in Home Ec disappear that fast. After seconds, thirds and fourths (!), some kids took home the scant leftovers to much acclaim by their parents. It's a good thing we did this at the end of the school year, since I have a feeling I might have been asked to make it a few more times by both young and old!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Congrats to the Taste Canada Awards Shortlist!

Since it's creation, Taste Canada Awards has honoured 208 Canadian-authored culinary books and blogs in both official languages. The winners will be announced at the awards gala on October 30, 2017 in Toronto.

A full list of the books (both French and English) can be found on the official site here. The short-listed blogs are below (unfortunately not enough French blog nominations came in to warrant an award in that category).

Food Blogs: General
Baking For Friends,
Chu on This,
Kitchen Heals Soul,
You Have Been Served,

Food Blogs: Health and Special Diet
A Dash of Compassion,
Kitchen Frau,
Oh She Glows,
The Simple Green,

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Green Two-Protein Curry

Two Protein Green Curry - a fantastic, spicy meal with chicken, tofu, loads of greens and homemade green curry paste. Rice or noodles is a must!

Green Two-Protein Curry

Yup, another curry. It has to say something about my family's undying love for the stuff that I've actually created a category for curried dishes on this blog. That said, while this is the 19th meal to make it on that page, every single one I've made has been so different from each other. One thing that stays constant, though, is that complex layering of spices and aromatics that somehow, some way, just work. With few exceptions, any vegetables that are languishing in the fridge perk up beautifully in the presence of the spices - it's one of our favourite ways to clean out the fridge and use up some of our garden's bounty (and we always add a ton of them). Herbs are never "optional" in a good curry, but the type you use can be. Again, I am always inspired by what my garden gives me - and unlike traditional curry lovers I flat-out refuse to grow cilantro (yuck!).

The best part, at least for us, is that you can essentially use anything as a protein base, because a curry variation exists for it. Since I had the last little bit of my homemade green curry paste in the freezer, along with some cooked chicken thighs and a block of tofu, I scouted around to see if mixing proteins, especially a vegetarian with a non-vegetarian one, had been done before - and would the lemony, slightly fishy and definitely spicy paste be too much?

I found inspiration in a Cooking Light recipe, of all things, and set to work, adding my own flair with both proteins, extra veggies and tons of herbs from the garden. Since the zucchini and cabbage are coming in thick and fast, they got top billing on my "shopping" list, as did the sorrel, basil and lemon balm, which all seem to enjoy the extra water we've been given!

Now, I won't lie - I made this with the homemade paste and the Thai chili flakes (we like our heat), and it was spicy. As in, "bowl of rice is mandatory" spicy. However, with all that heat there was so much flavour that it didn't matter that we were breathing fire - and for extra insurance, using the richest, fattiest coconut milk (or even cream) you can find helps temper the spice a bit more.

They do say that hot peppers are really good for you, though, so why not dig on in?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Garden Pasta Salad

A Garden Pasta Salad is a great way to get veggies and legumes into your diet, and even kids will gobble it up thanks to a lemon and Parmesan vinaigrette! Tasted and tested by my Grades 1-3 and 7-8 Home Economics classes - definitely kid approved!

Garden Pasta Salad

While the rain is certainly not boding well for my tomatoes and hot peppers this year, I'm certainly not wanting for a lot of other things in my garden! The zucchini, cucumbers, carrots and beets are particularly happy in the veggie garden, and the herbs, by and large, are taking off as well. Since we're deeply mired in the glory of Summer (well, mostly... it was below 20C this morning!) hot meals at noon are not always appreciated. Salads, though, tend not to be overly filling, and sandwiches can be kinda... beige.

That's why I love this pasta salad - packed with fibre and protein from the veggies and chickpeas, hearty with gluten free noodles and full of flavour thanks to a zingy vinaigrette, it was a breeze to whip up a batch first thing in the morning (or last thing at night), then cover and refrigerate it for up to a week, taking servings as needed. The vegetables and chickpeas become marinated by the dressing, eventually exuding their own delicious flavour as well, so every bite is satisfying to the stomach and the palate.

As someone who grew up hating pasta salad as a rule, I have to say this one changed my mind. While kids love it (I tested this out on my Grades 1-8 classes), it's definitely got enough of a "grown up" flair that any potluck or backyard party - including baby and wedding showers - would have a place for this on their table.