Sunday, July 27, 2014

PB & J Granola

Peanut butter and jelly is definitely a timeless classic. Whether you go the Skippy and Smucker's on Wonder Bread route or favour homemade spreads and loaves, it's a quintessential comfort food for not only children but their parents too. I used to eat PB&J for breakfast or as a snack, slathering on the creamy peanut butter and tart cherry jam before folding the pieces in half for a double-thick treat, and my family still defaults to the combination when we're pressed for time, ingredients and inspiration.

Today, our sandwiches are really a combination of storebought peanut butter and homemade jams and bread, and this granola that I adapted from the blog Peanut Butter Fingers is no different in combining its elements. With a fabulous crunchy peanut butter sweetened with honey and a generous spoonful of homemade jam, the whole shebang toasts to perfection - no extra oil necessary! While it's easily doubled or tripled, I made a small batch of this because, knowing me, the 1/4 cup serving size would soon turn into a 1 cup portion! As it is, the addictive mixture is not only a unique twist on breakfast, but is a fantastic topper for ice cream, a base for yogurt parfaits, a delightful crunchy topping for baked apples and even the secret ingredient in our "new" versions of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches*!

PB & J Granola

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Higher Protein Pizza Dough

Pizza. It's one of those foods that is so universal today that it's hard to find a variant that hasn't been capitalized on (or bastardized, depending on your source) in some way, shape or form. Like most people (and all "good" Italians / pseudo-Italians), my family loves their slices, and when we first became a household Friday nights were marked by a delivery guy with 3 boxes in his hands. The small cheese would fall to my sister, who likes nothing else on her pie. One large sucker would go strictly to my stepbrother, who would consume most of it that night (covered in pepper flakes and jalapeno rings) and save the rest for breakfast. Then there was the middle pizza, a marriage of the meat and cheese my stepdad insisted on placing on every pie, and my mom's cravings for something healthier (and vegetable related). Never the same twice (in a row, anyway), I remember mushrooms, assorted peppers, sausage, chicken, feta, olives, tomatoes, bacon and even porchetta finding a home on top of the thin crust mom insists on.

Higher Protein Pizza Dough

While my stepdad sure loves pizza, he's also a Type II diabetic with a chronic problem managing his blood sugar (even when my mom is playing watchdog so he can't cheat). As the disease has progressed with his age and stress levels at work (he now needs insulin), the carb load is even more of an issue, and bumping up the protein and fibre in his relatively white, refined-food diet has been something my mom's been trying to accomplish. While restaurant pizza isn't eliminated entirely, we knew that a homemade version would be more customizable in terms of both taste and nutrition, not to mention be a fun way of breaking in my new baby.

For serious low-carbers (like those on Atkins, etc), this is obviously not a "plan-friendly" recipe. I cannot in any way call it truly "low carb" at all - but it is higher in protein and fibre than your run of the mill storebought dough and certainly less preservative-laden than anything you could buy. Not only that, but it has a fantastic flavour profile - just tangy and yeasty enough with a subtle earthiness from the whole wheat and a sweet note from the honey. Making a big batch of this on the weekend is super simple too (even without a professional mixer), and worth it - portions freeze, thaw, par-bake or fully bake beautifully, and now we regularly have at least one ball suited for a 9x13" "thin crust" 'za sitting in the deep freezer for a Friday night splurge. Now if only I can convince my stepdad to try his pizza with ricotta cheese and spinach!

Higher Protein Pizza Dough

Shared with YeastSpotting at Wild Yeast 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sweet and Spicy Noodle Toss (A Spirited #RecipeRedux)

Since my mom is the sole cook for the majority of the family (I'm the exception, since my own meals necessarily have to be separate), she's occasionally hard pressed to think of ways to jazz up the nighttime meal for her palate while catering to the whims of my picky selective stepfamily. Even though she's retired, she's often pressed for time too - not only does she volunteer during the school year (with spot fill-ins during the Summer), but she golfs, gardens, takes care of the dog and sees to the individual needs and wants of my sister and I. My stepfamily works during the week, sometimes with late hours or unpredictable schedules, which can mean we're 4 for dinner or 2, unless my soon-to-be stepsister-in-law or grandma (or both) is over.

One of the "happy mediums" the family has managed to achieve regarding dinner routine is the stir-fry. Obviously, it's a quick method, but it's also incredibly versatile and over the Summer months is a fabulous use for the squash, carrots, onions, beans, peas and tomatoes growing in the garden. Thanks to the incredibly kind gifts that the folks at San-J sent to me last Christmas as well as a few months ago, we've been spoiled for choice flavour wise. My personal favourites are the Mongolian and Sweet & Tangy varieties, while my mom favours the spicy Thai Peanut and Szechuan sauces, especially when mixed up with a pinch of brown sugar or a dash of honey. One rare night I was given the task of helping create dinner for the family and soon took over, combining sweet, spicy and savoury in a veggie-laden, gluten free medley of fresh produce, brown rice vermicelli and crumbled "soy burger" (don't tell the stepfamily!). For kicks, I punched up the saute with Szechuan peppercorns, Chinese five spice, ginger and garlic - you can't go wrong with that combo! The merest splash of sherry helped deglaze the pan along the way, making sure all the decadent flavour stayed with the noodles and veggies and not sent to the sink.

Sweet and Spicy Noodle Bowl

This month's #RecipeRedux is featuring spirits of all kinds - be they liquor, wine, beer or extracts. Be sure to check out the rest of the gang's offerings and say hi! We'll bring the booze!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Chocolate Chip Lentil Cookies

Some days I wonder if people think my whole family eats nothing but cookies and other desserts all day. Granted, we do indulge in one or two "treats" a day (in modest portions!), but in general most of the baked sweets make their way to the staff at assorted doctor's appointments, the library, the hair salon or school. Usually, I also try to give a little something to the folks at our local greenhouse every year, since without them I'd be mighty short of dinners (and blog posts!) each year. So far, pretty much everything I've distributed has been met with approval (I even wound up on TV once!) - and these cookies are no exception. They passed the taste test with not only my mother (who is infamous for liking pretty much everything but okra and bleu cheese), but the staff at school and young kids!

Chocolate Chip Lentil Cookies

I shouldn't be surprised. These cookies are a combination of three of my favourite things: chocolate, lentils, and Chef Michael Smith. Okay, so there's no Chef in the cookies, but they are essentially his recipe - he definitely spearheaded the whole lentil PR campaign and it's associated contest! I've yet to be disappointed by a recipe of his, so when I saw these they piqued my interest immediately and I couldn't wait to make them. I made a handful of changes (namely adding whole grains and veganizing the formula with shortening, coconut oil and my Homemade Egg Replacer), and opted for both "regular" and "miniature" bittersweet chocolate chips for extra texture (plus it "feels" like more chocolate!). Obviously, if you only have one kind, just use it! I opted to leave my lentils just ever-so-slightly shy of pureed smooth, but again, if you have texture-phobes in the family (I do!), smooth is the way to go here. You'll never have to tell what that elusive "nutty" aspect is!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Two Tomato Chutney for a Summery #SundaySupper

Nothing screams Summer to me more than the first, vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes from our backyard garden. There's something divinely sweet about their juicy, sun-warmed flesh that is unlike anything you can buy, and that candy-like intensity is even greater after roasting in the oven, dehydrating or even the briefest exposure to heat via a hot saute pan or fresh from the pot pasta. During the season, I try to eat the bulk of our garden's bounty fresh (can you really pass up freshly sliced, perfect tomatoes on garlic toast?), but with upwards of 12 plants at the moment all producing fruit in bulk, not even my dehydrator can keep up with the volume regularly.

To cope with the remaining produce each year, I turn to preserving. Not simply tomato sauce and roasted tomatoes (as delicious as those are), but variations on popular condiments like ketchup and chutneys like this. Over the years, I've become known for my various chutney configurations, from watermelon rind, rhubarb and Moroccan-inspired to tart green tomato and apple mixtures. It's ironic to me, since I have never been a fan of the topping in any form - mostly due to the fact that it generally contains vegetables and fruit together, which I can't get my palate to accept. My family, on the other hand, adores the stuff, and my mom in particular will hoard a jar to herself just for use in  lunches and solo dinners.

When BBQ season lights up the backyard grill (and depending on who's manning it, the backyard in general via a lighter fluid-fed fireball) a jar or two will emerge from the fridge along with the pickled hot peppers, ketchup, mustard, relish and salsa, waiting to be chosen as a complement to my stepbrother's hamburgers or the ever-so-slightly charred steak. Meals of leftovers, often repurposed into stir-fries with extra veggies and sticky rice or brown rice vermicelli, get lashings of the sweet and spicy mixture at the table in lieu of hot or soy sauces, and even mid-Winter a freshly opened jar hearkens memories of garden plots past when its contents are dolloped onto roasted vegetables and grilled chicken.

Two - Tomato Chutney

In this particular medley, I combined both fresh and homemade dried tomatoes with sharp onions, garlic and ginger, spicy curry and pepper flakes and sweet dried fruit and honey. Cooked down into a thick, luscious mixture and allowed to "mature" for a few days (either canned or in the fridge), the family deemed it perfect for year round eats, especially afternoon BBQs with the family where everything from burgers to pizza, fish, vegetables and even tofu are fair game! 

This #SundaySupper Jennie of The Messy Baker and Melanie of Melanie Makes are hosting a Summer BBQ Party. Check out all the great seasonal eats below and stop by the Twitter party tonight at 7PM!

Beverages

Appetizers

Sides and Accompaniments

Main Dishes

Desserts
Sunday Supper Movement 
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.

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