Friday, August 26, 2016

Pasta-touille

My sister, Mom and I have somewhat of an inside joke when it comes to ratatouille. Every Summer when our three tomato and two zucchini plants in the backyard started their overproduction, us kids would dutifully go out and pick to our heart's content, eating our weight in cherry tomatoes and comparing the length (and width) of our zucchinis (insert NSFW joke here). Like most kids, the cherry tomatoes were always an easy sell veggie-wise, but before I really became as much of a veggie-addict as I am today, zucchini, eggplant and peppers wrinkled my nose. Not so with Mom. She'd pick out a big eggplant or two from the store on a "harvest weekend" and cook a big ol' pot of ratatouille, eating it all week on (and in) everything, often convincing my dad to do the same. However, the sudden influx of vegetation challenged the digestion of my parents slightly, leading to us re-naming the dish "rataTOOTy". Yes, it was (is?) hilarious, especially to a 9 year old at the dinner table.

Pasta-touille

That said, I'm now a proud member of the "rat pack", and when our garden's zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers start producing in sync you can bet various versions of the dish find their way into our weekly meals. I was looking for a way to make ratatouille more than a simple vegetable side dish without compromising the textures and flavours of the original, making it something to serve for dinner as opposed to with dinner. Inspiration struck when we were organizing photo albums and found a picture of mom with a bowl of ratatouille and a small scoop of KD (life with kids!). I started playing around with the idea of baking noodles and the veggie medley together in a casserole, and as I cooked, I added more and more goodies from the pantry, fridge and freezer. What I wound up with was a beautiful (if I do say so myself), hearty, healthy "pasta-touille". Not only did it contain TONS of the standard vegetables, but it had lentils, goat cheese, fresh Mozzarella and a teeny bit of skinless chicken breast too.

Since I was using pasta as an ingredient (and a surprisingly tasty potato-based one at that), I decided to add a second "noodle", spiralizing the zucchini. The whole medley bakes up into a delicious, full-flavoured dish that also freezes well - good thing too, because it made a ton!

Do you add extra ingredients that you have on hand as you go to a recipe, even if they're not called for? How do you like to eat summer veggies?

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Blueberry Beet Butter - Toast Topper #73

Every Summer it seems like I make a few standard items to can for the Winter months - whether it's for us to enjoy here at home or to give away during the holidays, a jar of something delicious always seems to warm the heart and be appreciated! A few of the recipes I riff on every year are chutney (my favourite being this Moroccan Tomato one), mincemeat (like this Downton Abbey "mockycat"), some sort of pasta sauce and - our current favourite Toast Topper - blueberry butter. The gloriously thick, sweet-tart spread is one of those that everybody loves - the eaters because it's delicious, the cooks because it's drop dead easy to make.

Blueberry Beet Butter

In fact, the (original) recipe is essentially three ingredients - blueberries, apples and sugar. After that, the possibilities are more or less endless! The first time I made it (way back in Toast Topper #2!), I used vanilla sugar, allspice and nutmeg. by the time Toast Topper #32 came about, I was tossing in lemon zest and pure pomegranate juice. This time around I took the recipe down a whole other road - adding a glug of red wine, some date syrup, and a garden fresh, dark red beet. 

Yes, a beet. I love the root veggie in pretty much any and every form, and already know how well it works in sweet things (brownies, anyone?), adding that subtle earthy note to the sugar and berry flavours. It is, as I said, subtle - you're not going to bite into your English muffin and go "yum, I'm eating borscht for breakfast". Rather, you're likely going to go on the hunt for some natural peanut butter and make yourself a grown up PB&J. Who says we have to grow up?

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Spiralized Sunomono

It's been a while since I broke out my Spiralizer - during the colder months, the lack of economical, "spiralize-able" veggies drops significantly, leaving not much around but carrots, potatoes and beets. I'm not sure if it's my model or not (I do have a fairly high-end one, though not the top of the tier) but the harder roots basically "shred" more than "twirl" in the machine, and make cleaning it a royal pain. Therefore, once the cucumber, zucchini and even apples fade away from their place as "peak" produce, so does the machine.

Spiralized Sunomono

However, at this moment, we have lots of Summer squash options coming in from the garden. Not only do we have our usual crops of zucchini, but there's some yellow squash and my long-awaited cucumbers as well. While I originally put in the cucumbers for pickling, the latest burst of rain and hot, humid weather acted like a natural steroid for my plants. By the time I got back out into the (somewhat dried-off) garden, I found two baby cucumbers that had been decimated by the storm and a single, rather large specimen that would not be fitting into any pickle jar soon! Luckily, I had a different use for it in mind - one of my favourite Japanese salads, called sunomono, is essentially a sweet-sour-salty pickled cucumber salad topped with sesame seeds. A breeze to whip up with the Spiralizer, it was also beautiful done that way, and if you let the cucumber "drain" a little on tea towels before assembling it holds quite well. In fact, drained enough, it gets better as it sits - just add the seed garnish at the last minute and you have a light and refreshing, vegan cucumber salad perfect for Summer get togethers (or solitary noshing)!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Brownie Brittle

I am a "brownie edge" person. Don't get me wrong - give me a pan of fudgy, dense brownies and it will disappear entirely without complaints - but if it's a choice between the soft centre and the crisp-chewy borders of a freshly baked pan, I'm going for the trimmings. My dad and I share the same love for that slightly overbaked texture, and while we don't like teeth-shattering crunch, we'll gladly take the bits most people wouldn't serve.

Brownie Brittle
Serving them in a coffee can is a great way to tie in the mocha flavour!

It was my search for this "golden medium" that landed me at this recipe. A relatively basic, Kamut-flour brownie got a little built-in "chew" from egg whites and custard powder, plus a "grown up" boost from brewed coffee and espresso powder. They're double-baked (a la biscotti) and left to cool in the oven, ensuring that they dry out enough to store safely at room temperature while staying ever-so-slightly yielding to chewing. Brittle really isn't the right name for these, but both "brewies" and "chettle" sound weird, so the original name for the treats I've seen in store it is!

I left out nuts and chocolate chips from the batter (they make spreading evenly tricky!) but couldn't resist a handful of bittersweet beauties scattered overtop. I might try making a batch soon with one of my favourite combinations - peanut butter and chocolate - by using a little peanut flour instead of the custard powder and a mix of peanut butter and chocolate chips overtop. The door is open for possibilities!!

How do you like your brownies? Soft, cakey, dense, fudgy... as much chocolate as you can stand?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Maple Pecan Blueberry Bread

Well, another Olympics is in the books, and (to toot our own horn) Canada did respectably - 22 medals, 4 more than the London Games and only 3 shy of the last Winter Olympics. While I admittedly didn't watch most of the Games (not a sports person in the least), I am still immensely proud of my country and how our athletes represented the values of our nation and the Games as a whole. 


Maple Pecan Blueberry Bread

In celebration, I decided to capitalize on a few hallmarks of Canadian cuisine to make our weekly loaf of bread. First, I infused some locally made butter with a mixture of Jakemans Pure Maple Syrup and my go-to Grade B (which is now apparently called "Dark Colour and Robust Taste"). Then came the Canadian-grown whole wheat and soy flours as well as a handful of flax seed for texture. To add some fruitiness, home-dried wild blueberries peppered the dough. While not Canadian, I added some pecans to the loaf as well. My mom loves pecan butter tarts, and the occasional buttery crunch just adds extra decadence to morning toast.

Sliced, toasted and topped with butter (or almost any Toast Topper), the loaf was delicious and hearty... and just Canadian enough to be "I am Canadian" cliche. Time to break out the plaid, Mountie gear and canoes!