Monday, April 8, 2019

Gluten Free, Sugar Free Vanilla Bean Angel Food Cake


Made my first birthday cake in 10 years - a Gluten Free, Sugar Free Vanilla Bean Angel Food Cake. Sweetened with a blend of monkfruit and stevia, its still light, fluffy and sweet. Perfect for topping with fresh fruit!


Happy birthday to me! I typically have a blase attitude about my birthdays for a few reasons. Like most people, I'm usually working on the day itself, and if I'm not is often because it's Easter - a fact that my dad and sister also have to deal with (we're all super close date wise). Combined with the fact that birthday cake's heavy reliance on the two elements I don't digest well - fat and gluten - birthday cakes are also not really something I had to look forward to. However, that all changed this year, when I not only found a fat free and gluten free recipe that tasted fantastic, but a sugar free one too!

I am a huge believer in taste coming to the forefront, and thankfully my history with baking gluten free served me well in preventing a cake that tasted like the stereotypical gluten free cardboard - especially in the absence of a ton of fat. For me, the secret lay in layers of vanilla - vanilla bean, vanilla extract and vanilla flavoured stevia, which made each bite perfumed with the flavour but not in an overwhelming or "fake" way. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to note that this angel food cake baked - and stayed - moister than "regular" angel food cake, even days later (it lasted a grand total of 4 days here before being demolished).

That said, the batter is somewhat thicker than your standard angel food recipe, and the top of the pan will be somewhat bumpy... but since that becomes the bottom, nobody will see! Also, being sugar free, the cake will not brown very much, maintaining an angel white appearance. Again, appearance was trumped by taste here, especially when I drowned mine in melted cherry jam (my favourite). FH used homemade strawberry sauce and whipped cream to decorate his and proclaimed it a success, not even realizing it was gluten or sugar free. The dozen egg yolks left over? They became a decadent pair of braided loaves, which will appear on this blog soon!


The best part of all this was that now, I have a cake option to enjoy and share with others no matter what the occasion - I've been asked to make it for Easter this year, and it is a top contender for my wedding cake a few years down the road too!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

These Peanut Butter Cup Cookies are a trifecta of peanutty flavour - peanut butter in the batter, peanut butter cups mixed in and Reeses Pieces sprinkled on top! Beware who you make these for... They'll be back!


I have always loved peanut butter, in any form. As a kid I would take to the jar of Kraft (smooth, always smooth!) with a spoon, smear it thickly on mom's Challah bread, or (my personal favourite) make sandwiches with honey or even corn syrup and enjoy with a tall glass of milk. However, every so often mom would break out the big guns and make peanut butter cookies. Studded with chocolate chips, hers melted away in your mouth and were scented ever so slightly with vanilla.

When it came time to making cookies for my (now) fiance, I knew that peanut butter cookies were going to be number one because he waxed poetic about the grand combination of peanut butter and chocolate as well. I wanted a recipe that was peanut buttery but also chewy with almost a chocolate chipper texture. Once I stumbled onto the official Reese's website I knew I had hit the jackpot. A mixture of butter and peanut butter made for a rich cookie that still spread, and the brown sugar added extra chew. The only change I made was doubling the vanilla and swapping out the Reese's Pieces with chopped peanut butter cups. The secret to using the PB cups was freezing them post-chop, which kept them from falling apart during the folding process. A quick chill after mixing helps the dough keep from spreading too much, and allows the dry ingredients to fully hydrate. In the interest of texture, I did keep the original Reese's Pieces as decoration on the top, which not only added crunch but colour!

In the end, the cookies have been devoured each and every time they've been made - and I will be making them for years to come! I can't wait to see how they hold up as ice cream sandwiches too... where's Summer?!

Chopped up peanut butter cups can mean only one thing...  Peanut Butter Cup Cookies!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Apple Whiskey (or Rum) Conserve - Toast Topper #83

Apple Whiskey (or Rum) Raisin Conserve. Your morning toast never HAD it so good!


Okay, so first things first - I cannot believe I didn't post a single Toast Topper in all of 2018! I really have no real excuse - I cooked and canned (albeit not as much as previous years) but I simply have lacked the time and energy to put together blog posts like I used to. As some of you know (if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram) 2018 was a pretty busy year for me - and things show no signs of slowing down! I'm now three terms away from graduating with my degree in Sociology and will be undertaking my Masters of Teaching in September of next year... then after all that I'm planning a wedding! So for those of you who have stayed with me throughout this shift, thanks! For those of you who are new to this blog, welcome and I hope you can find some inspiration in the 1958 posts I've written since 2007.

The second thing I wanted to say is Happy St. Patty's Day! While it's unknown if I have any Irish in me at all (Grandma was adopted so she's a wild card) the fact remains that my ginger haired cousin and I have still been pegged as being from the Emerald Isle. Even if I'm not part leprechaun, I do enjoy the festivities around this holiday, especially the music and dancing! Of course, alcohol is a factor this time of year too (green beer, anyone?) but the Irish are also known for decent spirits, and after hearing my mom mention some Irish whiskey she had tried I remembered the apple whiskey I had bought last year but not opened. Why not give it a shot in a lovely, sticky-sweet preserve perfect for dolloping over butter on some hearty soda bread or scones?

This conserve is originally from Best of Bridge Home Preserving, but (of course) I took several liberties when it came to specific ingredients. I kept the sugar ratio the same, but since I was out of brown sugar (yes, I'm a baking heathen) I dolloped in some molasses for flavour and a touch of honey too, because I love honey! I had no apple juice, but I did have an apple flavoured herbal tea, which when brewed triple strength tasted strikingly similar to apple juice, so in that went too. Apple whiskey made it's way in place of the rum and I nixed the walnuts because nobody here likes them. All in all, the mixture was rich, thick, spiced, and perfectly sweet, with just enough apple and raisin texture running through it. A perfect Toast Topper for St. Patty's Day if you ask me!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Baked Farro Casserole

Baked Farro Casserole is filled with chicken thighs, beet greens, tomatoes and dried hedgehog mushrooms. Perfect comfort food for the cold and dreary days,


One of my favourite things to whip up for Mom's lunches during the week is the one-dish wonder. As a student, it simplifies the meal prep process since I get carbs, veggies and protein all in one without extra prep time, and for her it makes for easier eating between all her activities as a busy grandma! Casseroles are also a fantastic opportunity to use up all the leftover bits and pieces lying around the kitchen and in the freezer - so although I'm giving you a "recipe", it is truly more of a guideline than anything else.

The original inspiration for this casserole came from Veganomicon via Diannes Vegan Kitchen and, if you couldn't already guess, was a vegan recipe that I picked because mom has recently discovered (and fallen in love with) farro and was looking for ways to utilize the earthy, healthy whole grain. However, we also had a couple chicken thighs sitting in the fridge from the weekend (after dinner invitees had to cancel) and a container of homemade chicken stock as well as homegrown beet greens in the freezer. Pawing through the pantry I found dried hedgehog mushrooms (my favourite kind) and a handful of red lentils. The fridge yielded a red pepper and a carrot that were looking somewhat sad, so they found their way in too. All the extra ingredients required extra liquid, so I used a second (smaller) can of tomatoes that I drained along with the undrained big can already called for.

The whole process from the initial saute to when I lifted the dishes (I only had two shallow ones at the time) out of the oven smelled like heaven - herbs, veggies, roasting grains and chickeny aromas abounded. Even my year-old neice was intrigued, and while she didn't get a taste test this time around, I'm sure she'll eventually convince one of us to give her a bowl too!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Cinna-Bomb Pound Cake

Two swirls of cinnamonny goodness lace the yogurt pound cake, adding spicy richness and a touch of homey sweet flavour.


Who doesn't like the sweet, spicy richness of a cinnamon roll, or the luxurious velvety texture of a pound cake? I, for one, cannot resist a cinnamon dessert, and when I found myself with a glut of eggs and yoghurt to use up I knew exactly the dessert to win over the hearts and stomachs of those around me. I'm a fan of loaf cakes in particular for taking into work, because they're easy to slice and serve and have a minimum of fuss and bother - wrapped in a napkin or tucked into a zip-top bag, they are easy snacking on-the-go, which as any teacher can tell you is a major component of the job description! 

I wish I could take all the credit for this delicious recipe, but I have to admit my main inspiration came from another great blogger: Tiffany from Le Creme de la Crumb. Of course, I played around a little bit, upping the spices and doubling the wallop of both vanilla and cinnamon with vanilla flavoured coffee creamer and cinnamon chips in addition to vanilla yoghurt and ground cinnamon. I also tossed in barley flour for a delicate hint of nuttiness that played off all the richness going on in the cake. Once baked, I took one into work for the hungry masses and wrapped the other one in heavy foil and froze until we had company for dinner, where it was enjoyed alongside coffee and a scoop of ice cream. That said, I heard a rumour that the leftover slices made excellent breakfast fare when lightly toasted!