Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Schoolroom Apple Cookies - #CreativeCookieExchange

School-safe two-bite cookies filled with fruit and flax are a perfect balance of nutrition and decadence.

MLCP's Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies - My Way

These cookies are aptly titled - not only are they school safe (no peanuts or tree nuts) and full of brain-boosting flax and fruit, but we also make these every year in the classroom as part of our Thanksgiving lunch preparations. Of course, the "official" school recipe is ever so slightly different - edited for convenience and cost - but when you're at home there is no reason to skimp on flavourful, healthful, whole ingredients, especially when you're cooking for your loved ones.

All too soon the littlest of these loved ones will start coming home from school (cue ominous music) and if the kids at my school are any indication, they'll be ravenous. Granted, it seems that kids today are always ravenous, even when they've just eaten, and since they like to snack why not make sure you have a few healthy options on hand? The nutritionist in me will advocate for all the parenting tips and tricks you read about - keeping cut fruit and veggies in the fridge, candy and chips out of eyesight and arm's reach - but remembering how I was as a kid (I will shamefully admit eating cookie dough from the tube after school when mom wasn't home) I also know that kids crave a treat. Make the treat, satisfy the sweet tooth, get a bit of fruit and whole grains in, and you can maybe convince them to continue with a fruit or vegetable alongside (or at least eat a veggie at dinner).

This month we are making Back to School Cookies! Looking for an example to try? Keep reading! 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! If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Danish Butter Cookies #SundaySupper

Homemade Danish Butter Cookies are so easy and delicious!

Danish Butter Cookies

The blue tins of sweet, vanilla and butter flavoured cookies were ubiquitous at school growing up. Since they were relatively cheap, peanut free and plain enough to suit most kid's palates, we would have these as our "snack" occasionally, and almost always as "dessert" on pizza or hot dog days. Kids would argue over whether the pretzels or the wreaths tasted better, trading for their favourite. But I'll let you in on a little secret.

I hate those cookies.

Call me spoiled, but "butter cookies" to me are nothing compared to my mom's shortbread. Sure, I like butter in cookies (looking at you, chocolate chippers), but if you call a cookie a butter cookie, it better bring the flavour. The tinned ones tasted of nothing but sugar - no vanilla, no butter... just dry-ish sweetness.

However, I used to work with someone who, like my childhood friends, loved those cookies. As a gift, I decided to make him a batch - but better, with lots of flavour from both butter and vanilla. I knew I couldn't really do all butter, since it would spread like crazy (and chilling the dough wouldn't let it go through my piping bag), so I mixed in some butter flavoured shortening. To amp up the butteriness even more, I tossed in a bit of butter flavouring.

Once the butter element was taken care of, it was time for the vanilla. Vanilla sugar was a no-brainer for me, since it's what I make every time I have a spent vanilla pod. Speaking of vanilla pods, the seeds of one, plus a dash of extract, went in next, until the dough smelled of nothing but butter and vanilla - or what I once heard referred to as "angel farts" (I can't remember who said that to me once, but it stuck).

Since I don't have (or want) a cookie press, to get the pretty designs, I stuck with a piping bag and large star tip.The dough was a bit too stiff for eloquent wreaths or pretzels, but rosettes looked pretty and they all baked at the same rate. Being two-biters, a few with a cup of tea (or glass of milk) makes a perfect mid-afternoon treat - and one I wish I remembered from my childhood!

This week's #SundaySupper is celebrating after-school snacktime - whether it's something you need to pack in the backpack (if your kids are like me growing up, after-school care was a fact of life, as was getting home at 6PM) or a treat kids can quickly fix after a long day, there are lots of ideas this week!



Fall Flavors

Healthy Snacks


Savory Snacks


Sweet Snacks

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.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Triple Caramel Scones

Caramel lovers will rejoice when they bite into one of these tender, fluffy scones. Packed with caramel sauce, caramel extract and and crushed hard caramels, there's no escaping the decadence!

Triple Caramel Scones

We have a soft spot for scones around here. Since bread and muffins are more or less a bi-weekly event, the rare time a scone or biscuit hits the oven we truly savour it. The reason we don't enjoy them more often is the same reason why we love them so much - they are rich in fat and sugar, melting in your mouth while warm, and really - who just eats a scone by itself? Mandatory scone-operating procedures demand at least a little fruit, often a touch of butter (mmm, melting butter!) and a large coffee (or some caffeinated beverage), and usually they're part of a brunch spread. If they feature on the dessert menu, again you have the fruit component, but a little ice cream somehow sneaks in too.

But once in a while, how can you argue with something so sinful? Especially when it's homemade - at least that way you can control the quality of the ingredients you're eating, and if you like it less sweet, glazed or unglazed, or a special flavour the doors are wide open to you.

Since my dad and I are caramel fans, I decided that this time around, browned, gooey sugar would be the dominant taste. Of course, I didn't just use chopped up caramels - no, that would be just so pedestrian! Instead, I started with the nutty flavour of spelt flour and built on it with three hits of caramel - homemade caramel sauce replaced the traditional milk or sour cream, caramel extract added to the vanilla and finally crushed hard caramels added a touch of extra texture. I added a bit of Truvia for extra sweetness, but it doesn't really need it (especially if you're doing the ice cream or sweet coffee thing) - and if I get a chance to make these again I'll top it with a touch of finishing salt like Hawaiian Black Lava.

Triple Caramel Scones

Friday, August 18, 2017

“Faux”sage and Tomato Gnocchi Bake

Two Dutch ovens get filled with layers of a homemade soy-based "faux-sage", a two-onion ragú and homemade gnocchi before being topped off with fresh mozzarella cheese and baked to bubbling perfection.

Faux-sage Gnocchi Bake

To me, the ultimate comfort food is baked pasta. Whether it's my mom's lasagna, tortellini al forno, ziti or homemade mac n cheese, some form of the dish is sure to warm your insides and wrap you up in a blanket.

Like most things delicious, these pots of baked gnocchi sprang out of the need to use ingredients from the pantry and fridge. TVP is a cheap and ever-versatile protein, taking on whatever flavours you throw at it. Knowing that it mimicked ground meat or sausage really well when I made the Mini Tourtières, a few years ago, I decided to do the same thing and make a rich "meaty" ragu, adding the last bit of wine from an open bottle, two types of onions and some nutritional yeast for umami. Instead of the traditional ziti or rigatoni, I opted to cook up a batch of my gnocchi and use that for the starch.

Notice I said pots above. There was so much food that one Dutch oven couldn't handle it (and we have 7-qt models!), so I divided everything between our two. They bake up relatively quickly, and after a short rest it was time to dig in. Not a peep about "tasting weird" was uttered during the initial taste, and my mom was thrilled that it was vegetarian and filled with fibre - not to mention a perfect way to get a bag of gnocchi out of the freezer!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Banana Muffins with Chocolate Hazelnut Crunchies

Adapted from 125 Best Vegan Recipes, these are moist and perfectly sweet muffins peppered with chocolate-hazelnut crispy bites instead of chocolate chips.

Banana Muffins with Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch

Bananas and chocolate are a match made in heaven - especially when that chocolate is dark and almost bitter and the bananas are almost caramelized in their over-ripe state. Add nuts in any form - the classic, of course, is walnuts, but anything really works - and you have a trifecta of deliciousness. 

My family tends to eat most of the bananas we buy - it is by and large my stepfather's favourite fruit, and one of the only ones my sister eats willingly - but occasionally we wind up finding out we overbought. Most of the time, the (then-spotty) bananas are peeled and stashed in my freezer, awaiting a fate of banana bread, but I wanted to try something a little different with a few on the counter. I had a copy of 125 Best Vegan Recipes kicking around with a banana- (and chocolate!) forward recipe, and since I had a freshly minted batch of Chocolate Hazelnut Crunchies on my hands I decided to use those in place of the chocolate chips called for. 

These muffins are the perfect mixture of "morning snack" and "dessert" - there is a delightful nuttiness from the spelt flour and almond milk that evokes the feeling of being healthy, but the sweetness of the fruit, agave and Crunchies definitely makes the decadence of these bites known. The crumb of these is moist and tender, without the gumminess that can sometimes occur when the phrases "whole grain", "vegan" and "banana" go together. They're not really things of beauty, to be sure - the relative wetness in this batter doesn't lend itself to super-inflation - but one bite and I guarantee you'll want another. 

Provided you like bananas and Nutella, that is - and who doesn't?