Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Pumpkin Spice and Gingerbread Syrups

If you're a Pumpkin Spice Latte addict, why not make your own decadent syrup infused with REAL pumpkin, cinnamon sticks, allspice berries and whole cloves along with ground ginger and nutmeg? For gingerbread fans, try brown and white sugars simmered with fresh ginger and a cinnamon stick. From coffee to waffles this is all the best of fall in a jar!

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

Well, 'tis the season for all things sweet and spicy. Everything in the stores these days seems to have an Autumnal equivalent, be it apple-cinnamon, gingerbread or even the often-mocked pumpkin spice. I have nothing against those flavours this time of year - they warm you up from the inside and are almost always associated with physically warm things (like the aforementioned latte). Where I do find it a little frustrating is that "pumpkin" or "gingerbread" items rarely contain pumpkin or real ginger - those perishables are left out in favour of sugar and flavouring.

The obvious solution is to make your own! Take this Pumpkin Spice Syrup for example. More than simply tossing cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves into a simple syrup, I decided to up the "pumpkin" quotient by using a pumpkin "stock" of sorts. It added a lightly sweet, vegetal flavour that perfectly highlighted to stronger spices. In addition, with the exception of the nutmeg I used whole spices as a type of "tea", straining them after the mixture reduced. The result was a flavourful but not overwhelmingly spicy syrup, which is perfect for adding to coffee or cocoa as well as drizzling onto waffles.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup
Makes ~ 2 cups
Deseeded pulp from 2 pumpkins
water to cover
1 1/2 cups sugar
1" piece fresh ginger, peeled
2" piece cinnamon stick
5 allspice berries
3 whole cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  1. Combine the pumpkin pulp and enough water to cover it in a large pot. Cover and simmer for 3 hours.
  2. Remove from heat and strain through fine mesh. Discard solids.
  3. Measure 3 cups of the liquid and return to the pot.
  4. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat to a brisk simmer and cook until reduced by 1/3, about 1 hour.
  6. Store in the fridge or can 10 minutes in a waterbath.

This dark gingerbread-flavoured syrup is not shy in the spice department, but it is thinner than the Pumpkin Spice version. I canned some for later (leaving the ginger chunks and cinnamon stick in the liquid) and stashed the rest in the fridge, where it thickened slightly, like maple syrup. Again, this is fantastic in coffee drinks (or Chai tea), but wouldn't be remiss drizzed onto pumpkin bread or mixed into cream cheese as a cookie filling.

Gingerbread Syrup
Makes ~ 2 3/4 cups, 22 (1 fl. oz) servings
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 cups water
4" piece ginger, peeled and diced
1 (2") cinnamon stick
  1. Combine the sugars, water, sliced ginger and cinnamon stick in a large stainless steel saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring.
  3. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick if desired (I didn't).
  4. Can 10 minutes in a waterbath.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 55.0
Total Fat: 0.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 4.0 mg
Total Carbs: 17.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.0 g
Protein: 0.0 g

Monday, November 6, 2017

Sweet Coffee and Cinnamon Rolls

Nothing makes a home smell beautiful like freshly brewed coffee does. The scent of coffee can help sell houses, it is comforting, and warms the soul in a cold Canadian winter. This recipe is a great twist on the classic cinnamon roll and is a perfect accompaniment to your cup of espresso. It’s a great, sweet pick-me-up, delicious and packed full of flavor.

Photo via unsplash

These rolls are a great recipe for a picnic as you can make them in advance for the next day. You can make the dough for your cinnamon rolls by hand, or in the bread machine on a dough cycle. Just make sure that you follow the instructions for your bread machine when putting in the liquids.

Sweet Coffee and Cinnamon Rolls
Makes 12

¾ cup warm 2% milk
¼ cup warm espresso coffee - Investing in a drip coffee maker can help you get really good quality coffee to put in your dough.
⅓ cup melted butter
4 ½ cups strong white bread flour
½ cup superfine sugar
2 ½ teaspoons quick dried yeast

3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 cup packed brown sugar
⅓ cup soft butter
  1. It is important that you don’t add your coffee in whilst it is really hot, but warm coffee will help start the rising process and activate the yeast. 
  2. Combine the ingredients in a bowl, mixing to form a dough. 
  3. Knead until smooth an elastic. If you are making this by hand, then you may need to add a little extra flour whilst kneading. 
  4. When you have made your dough, leave it in a bowl and cover with saran wrap. Leave the bowl in a warm, dry place for 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.  
Filling and Baking
  1. Once the dough has doubled in size, put it on a clean, floured work surface and roll it gently into rectangle, approximately 16x24.
  2. Mix together the cinnamon and brown sugar in a bowl. 
  3. Spread the softened butter all over your dough, then sprinkle over the cinnamon/brown sugar mixture. 
  4. Roll the dough up lengthwise and cut into 12 equal pieces. Put these into a greased 13x9 pan, cover leave to rise for a further hour.
  5. Heat the oven to 400F
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the tops of the rolls are nice and brown. 
  7. Put them onto a cooling rack. 
  8. You may wish to leave the rolls plain, but for a great glaze simply combine 3 cups of confectioners (powdered) sugar with ⅓ cup of freshly brewed coffee and spread nice and thick over the rolls.

This has been a guest post by a company who wishes to remain anonymous, brought to you by What Smells So Good?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Cowpea Ginger Chews

These spicy, soft and chewy cookies are crowned with raw sugar and are perfect for the lunchbox - you certainly can't tell there's anything healthy about them!

Cowpea Ginger Chews

'Tis the season for all things baked and spicy! Since I'm always on the lookout for unique, healthy and overall delicious cookie recipes to fill my gift baskets in December, I was excited to try remaking an old bean-based cookie of mine for the festive season. I have a handful of gingerbread fanatics on my gifting list, so in addition to Chestnut Gingerbread Cookies, gingerbread syrup and biscotti I'm adding these soft, chewy and ever so slightly cakey drop cookies to the mix. These are laden with flavour not only from ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon, but a nuttiness from barley flour and pureed black eyed peas.

Now black eyed peas (also called cowpeas) are a bit of a divisive food around here - at least when they're in a savoury application. I happen to love their nutty, buttery flavour and soft texture, particularly when pureed into a dip or roasted. However, my mom is strictly against this type of legume when she can taste it distinctly - pureed and baked, though, she's willfully blind. The application of a spicy, soft cookie is the perfect foil for the beans, as it allows them to impart a subtle taste without screaming "BEANS HERE!". They passed the "kid test" at school with flying colours too - definitely cookie platter material.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Somebody's Grandma's Spice Cake

I used pear sauce and carob in this revamp of an old family recipe, which happens to be completely vegan!

Well, holy crow it's been a while since I've been able to post! With the flurry of activity around here the past few weeks, cooking, baking and writing for the blog had to take a bit of a backseat, so here's hoping the worst of the craziness is past (except for exams... I have no control over those). In the past month, both my stepsister and stepsister-in-law had beautiful baby girls, we had Thanksgiving and Halloween, I got my exam schedule and started my term papers - all of which come with time constraints and stress! When I finally did get into the kitchen, I knew 100% it was going to be in order to make some comfort food.

I've written before about my mom's "black box" collection of recipe cards and cache of cookbooks - some gleaned from family and friends, others clipped from newspapers and magazines. Almost none of the handwritten cards have a source, but given the time it would have taken to compile the collection I'm confident that each one had special meaning.

This cake was simply titled "Nana's Applesauce Cake". Neither I, nor anyone I know in my family, have ever called our grandmothers "Nana", but apparently somewhere down the line there was such a woman making a spicy, dense, moist ring cake with applesauce. With a boatload of pureed, lightly sweetened pears in my freezer (left over from the days of Ruby Pears in a Golden Cage), I saw this cake as the perfect opportunity to use them up, and take a little twist on tradition as I went along. The neat thing about this recipe is that it was always a 100% vegan and part whole grain recipe - why, I don't know (except maybe economics played a factor), but they definitely don't have any negative impact on the flavour or texture of the cake. I did add a dash of vanilla, and cut down the sugar a bit, but I also decided to use carob in place of the cocoa in the original. Carob has a somewhat fruity flavour going for it, which I thought would work well with the fruit in the batter.

I tried to get a photo of it sliced when I took it to work, but (as with all staff rooms) good food simply doesn't linger! I do promise you though that the crumb is dark, moist and definitely indulgent, perfect for pairing with a cuppa on a cold Fall day.

Somebody's Grandma's Spice Cake

Somebody's Grandma's Spice Cake
Makes 1 large tube cake, 16 slices
6 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp vanilla
3 1⁄2 cups sweetened pear or applesauce
1⁄2 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
1⁄4 tsp cloves
1 tbsp cinnamon
⅓ cup carob powder
1⁄2 tsp salt
1 ⅓ cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 ⅓ cups whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup raisins
½ cup diced dried apple
  1. Heat oven to 350F and grease a 12-cup tube pan.
  2. In a bowl, beat together oil, vanilla, applesauce, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, carob, salt and sugar.
  3. Add flours and baking soda, beating well.
  4. Mix in the dried fruit.
  5. Bake at 350 for about an hour or until toothpick comes out clean.
  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 260.1

  • Total Fat: 5.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
  • Sodium: 3.7 mg
  • Total Carbs: 52.4 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 3.2 g
  • Protein: 3.1 g

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Potato Spinach Frittata

Cheese and eggs combined with roasted potatoes, spinach and tomatoes make for a fantastic all-in-one meal. It's no beauty but my Grade 7s and is ate it up!

Spinach and Potato Fritatta

Eggs are a tricky sell - to kids and adults. Growing up, I would eat eggs one of three ways: scrambled with gratuitous amounts of cheese, as an omelette with cheese and some kind of meat (chorizo was the bomb) or fried, sunny-side-up style, in butter. Plain scrambled eggs held absolutely zero pull for me (and lets not even get into hard boiled ones - I still can't stand their smell). Nowadays, the only person I know who actually likes eggs without anything but a splash of milk is my sister. Everyone else either won't eat them or has to add tons of ingredients for flavour and texture.

The lesson plans I wrote for my older Home Ec students were intended to teach them how to cook actual meals for themselves and their families, as they'll be off to high school soon. Hedging my bets that I could convert some of the "egg haters" by adding other elements they did like, I came up with a variation on both an Italian frittata and a Spanish tortilla - a stovetop frittata packed with spinach, potatoes and cheese. While I thought the spinach was a bit of a crapshoot for my traditionally veggie-phobic students - it was so green - I got no complaints either before or after they had their meal. I will admit, though, that the potatoes were the key ingredient - every kid there loves them. Regardless, the plates were cleaned - it's hard to argue with potatoes and cheese on any scale, and the eggs just hold everything together. The one thing I will emphasize is that salt is especially important here - between the potatoes, spinach, tomato and eggs, there isn't enough from the cheese alone. Pepper, however, is to taste. The student I had measuring the pepper added a half tablespoon to the mix in place of the half teaspoon indicated in their copy of the recipe - the results were by no means inedible, but they did require a lot of requests for water!

The few leftovers I had, I brought home to my mom. She's not a huge egg eater either, but like the kids if you add enough yummy things to them it's simply a bland binder. The pepper was a surprise, but again, not overpowering, and when served alongside a slice of that week's Cranberry, Walnut and Wild Rice Loaf  it made for a very satisfying lunch indeed!