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?

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!)