Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pumpkin Date Bars #creativecookieexchange

It's Fall, so it must be pumpkin season!

Unlike most of my family, I am not a devoted fan of pumpkin pie, cake, cookies or muffins. The flavour of the squash, as well as its scent while baking, are rather off-putting to me on their own, and the flavour, to quote some adorable rodents, is "squishy nothing".

Or a pumpkin date square?  #baked  #dessert #food #cooking #baked #pumpkin #eggless #foodie #sweet

However, the merits of the squash are not all lost on me... when added to another flavourful ingredient - say, apple butter, maple syrup or dates - pumpkin puree becomes the perfect flavour vehicle, adding bulk and moisture without any untoward flavours of its own. In fact, over the years I've become well known in the family for churning out a mean apple butter-pumpkin pie, made with tofu instead of eggs for extra creaminess and far less risk of cracking with the heat of the oven (it's also my secret for cheesecake), and I've done similar combinations in my Home Ec classes where some of the kids are leery of the "traditional" custard filling.

This year, in addition to my (now) classic pie, I whipped up a bake-sale-worthy pan of these autumn-flavoured crumb bars. The base and topping is rich with butter and brown sugar, with a perfect texture from the oats and kinako, and reminds me 100% of my mom's apple squares. To temper the richness, I opted for a not-too-sweet filling of pureed dates, pure pumpkin ppuree, apple juice and a touch of stevia. Even without the stevia, the mixture was plenty sweet enough - and depending on your dates you might not need any added sweetness at all (I used Chinese red dates, which aren't super-sweet, but if you used Medjool you would definitely want to taste the filling pre-stevia).

It's time for this month's Creative Cookie Exchange! One of the best things about fall--in addition to sweaters and football--is all of the delightful seasonal themes that come to mind for baking. Pumpkin, apples, late summer and early fall harvest, Halloween, Thanksgiving…. They are all fun and delicious to play around with, so check out what we have for you this month!

You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Cranberry Blueberry Bran Bagels #wbd2016

It's been ages since I've put on the bagel-baking apron, but with the impending craziness that the holidays bring, breakfasts and lunches on the go are starting to become more the "norm" than the exception. There's nothing that can truly beat a chewy, boiled bagel freshly made at home - except perhaps a chewy, boiled bagel freshly made in Montreal! Making bagels also allows a little more room to "play" with ingredients, since you can make a big batch of basic bagel dough and knead in additions as desired.

Cranberry Blueberry Bran Bagels

That said, I totally knew what direction I was heading in when I pulled out the flour, vital wheat gluten and yeast, and it was 100% driven by my mom's passion for a certain muffin as well as the timely prevalence of cranberry everything in my local store. With a decent helping of vegan blueberry yogurt, the fact that the bagels contained a hefty amount of bran (both added and in the form of whole wheat flour) didn't translate into sawdusty toast screaming for a mountain of butter (or another  Toast Topper - although a smear of Blueberry Beet Butter or Roasted Peach Jam is a great addition). Given that I was going for the "bigger is better" dough approach, I was really glad I had a strong standing mixer - there is no way to get adequate kneading without one, and my 7-quart KA Proline took the dough to perfectly smooth and supple with no problem. Next step is to get grinding my own flours, now that I have a Mockmill at my disposal!

World Bread Day 2016 (October 16)

It's once again time for World Bread Day, an international celebration of the fact that we have the luxury to not only have enough food to survive, but to be able to enjoy the food on our tables. This event has been hosted by Zorra at Kochtopf for ten years now, and the round-ups are always worth a perusal! Here are some of the World Bread Roundups from the past.

Vegan Cranberry-Blueberry Bran Bagel Dough

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Cherry-Chocolate Wine Spritzer Cake

Those of you who have had beer bread know just how delicious - and dead simple - it is. Possibly the most basic quickbread in existence, the original recipe is nothing more than self-rising flour, sugar, butter and beer. Thanks to the carbonation and "yeasty" flavours of the brew, the bread is lofty and similar in flavour to a yeasted dough, but it needs the hit of butter for moisture lest it turn to sawdust after cooling. As a result, the loaves don't store overly well, and are best (IMHO) dunked into soup or stew.

Cherry-Chocolate Wine Spritzer Cake

All of the recipes with the carbonated liquid / self rising flour combination I've found to date are on the savoury side - I've seen ones with herbs, garlic, cheese, chiles, olives... but never taking on dessert or the sweet side of quickbread. I suspect most of this has to do with the fact that the recipes are subject to drying out rapidly, making them less appealing as a stand-alone treat. That said, when I found myself with a few bottles of wine spritzer left over from a birthday party, a bottle of Cheribundi Tart Cherry Juice and a handful of dark chocolate chunks, I thought I'd try it out anyways. The combination was inspired by a recipe found on Nosh My Way, and by adding just a smidge of honey to the batter along with the basic ingredients I was rewarded with a sweet, tender loaf cake with just enough outer crust to slice cleanly. Inside, the melt-in-your-moth crumb held chunks of melting bittersweet chocolate and dried cherry "jewels" that held onto enough moisture that the loaf never dried out. The best part? This drop-dead simple, decadent and rich-tasting loaf cake only has 3 tbsp of butter and is laced with whole grains to boot!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Beet Horseradish

The holidays have never held huge amounts of wonder, excitement and longing for me. Unlike most kids I knew growing up, we saw my grandparents (our only relatives in the province) quite regularly - and aside from Christmas gifts once a year, our gatherings were more or less the same. Turkey dinner for Thanksgiving was special not for the meal itself, but for the rituals surrounding it - I learned early on in life to "give the turkey a bath" (i.e. thaw it in the laundry tub full of water) and to both pat it dry and "dance with it" (how my mom used to wrestle it out of the packaging and prepare it for trussing). While Mom did the bird, glazed carrots and infamous cheesy broccoli and cauliflower, what I clamoured for the most was my paternal grandma's mashed potatoes - a recipe that I have (at least according to her current recollection) but have never been able to recreate.

Beet Horseradish

Christmas dinners, though, were my maternal grandparents' domain. While we occasionally had a turkey on the table, more often it was roast beef - my grandpa's favourite and (for him and I) the best excuse ever to down a jar of pickled onions and heaping scoops of pickled horseradish. I've loved horseradish for as long as I can remember, and over the holidays it migrated from on top of roasted meat to inside mashed potatoes, mixed with boiled Brussels sprouts and asparagus and carefully scooped onto sliced Havarti over Triscuits.

Most of the time, our horseradish enjoyment was in the form of the plain, white jarred stuff (but not the creamy kind - blech). However, once every few years, Grandpa would find beet-tinted, freshly made and hotter than heck fresh horseradish at the deli and bring it home. He and I were the only two people at the table that truly loved the stuff, and while I never liked beets on their own growing up, the fresh zip of the radish made the earthy sweetness just work on my tongue.

Today would have been my grandpa's birthday (shame on me, I wouldn't know what year), and while he's not with us in person he's definitely partaking in spirit. In his honour, I dug out my jar of  fresh, homemade, pink-hued horseradish  and scooped out a helping over my roasted sprouts tonight. The garden-harvested produce really brought their A-game to the table, and don't mellow as fast as the storebought stuff, meaning wallops of flavour in every mouthful!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Pickled Red Onions for #SundaySupper Oktoberfest

Someone want to tell me how September is over already? It seems like only yesterday that the kids were hauling their backpacks of brand new binders, books and pencils to school, and now the classrooms (at least mine) are well-broken in and the talk is of Halloween parties and even - gasp - Christmas lists. A summer-worshipper myself, the thought of fully immersing myself in the brisk season of fall is somewhat daunting... in fact, while I love the ideas of fall themed events (apple picking, changing leaves and pumpkin carving), I'm staunchly anti-fall climate and have already piled on the sweaters.

That said, October is quite the month of celebration - obviously, we have Halloween to look forward to (although according to the stores, the holiday has been around the corner since August), but there's also Thanksgiving for us Canadians and for the Bavarian community, the glory of Oktoberfest is here too.

Oktoberfest is the longest running beer festival and traveling fair held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. Cities all over the world celebrate Oktoberfest with German-inspired food, fun, and, of course, beer. It is a 16-18 day folk festival running from mid-September to the first weekend in October. Having been held every year, for 206 years, since its start in 1810, Oktoberfest is an important part of Bavarian culture.

The #SundaySupper team, hosted this week by Cricket of Cricket’s Confections, have banded together to create German-inspired recipes in honour of Oktoberfest. My contribution are these sweet-tangy pickled red onions, which are perfect on spicy brats or in slaws as well as on their own. Gloriously pink, just sweet enough and getting better with age, they're ridiculously easy to make too. I used dried papaya seeds for a boost of bitter-spicy pep. I had read somewhere that they're a good substitute for peppercorns and, while they're a little more on the "sharp" side of the spectrum, I'd have to agree. Obviously, regular peppercorns would work too - and if you can get your hands on pink peppercorns, all the better. While you're supposed to chill these before digging in, I'd be lying if I said I didn't eat forkfuls of these pickled red onions from the jar while still warm. They're that good.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't eat forkfuls of these pickled red onions... I didn't even let them cool completely!  #yum #vegan #vegetarian #cooking #healthyfood #foodie #instafood #onions #rootveggies #redonion #pickles

Appetizers (die Vorspeisen)


Breakfast (das Frühstück)


Condiments (die Gewürze)


Main Dish (die Hauptgerichte)


Side Dish (die Beilagen)

Dessert (der Nachtisch)
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.