Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Zippy Beet Catsup

This sweet, spicy and tangy dip tastes deceivingly like ketchup - but surprise! There are zero tomato products involved.

Zippy Beet Catsup

Let's face it - kids (and big kids) love ketchup. Even at my house - where every resident is over 25 - we have 3 bottles of it in the fridge. I use "my" low-sodium variety (which I added Louisiana hot sauce to, because) exclusively on sweet potato, butternut squash and skin-on Russett oven fries, while my often-visiting stepbrother piles his sriracha-laced variety on hamburgers. Then there's my sister, who as I've mentioned before is a bona fide ketchup addict who puts it on everything from steak (yes, even filet mignon) to fries to pasta (but not mac n' cheese... we both agree that's just wrong).

One thing kids are not generally fond of in their natural state is beets. Whether it's their garishly red colour, the slight earthiness or the fact that the thought of the root vegetable brings up memories of old ladies and sickly-sweet Harvard sauce, beets are a hard sell. I speak from experience - until I began growing my own heirlooms a few years ago, the only way you'd find me enjoying beets was in a chocolate cake. I still prefer raw, spiralized or shredded beets to roasted day to day, but I do have to admit their versatility is growing on me - especially when it comes to making condiments.

When I saw the original recipe for "beet ketchup" on Knead to Cook, I was skeptical - no way could this tomato-free spread taste like the fire-engine-red squeeze bottle stuff. You know what - I was right. It's not your commercial, smooth, hyper-sweetened tomato ketchup. It's richer, more deeply flavoured, and more complex. However, it still evokes that delicate sweet-tart balance we know and love, with a hint of spice for interest. Think of it as grown-up ketchup, or fancy "catsup" that would be at home on a dinner-party spread (or really good meatloaf!). It definitely felt at home on Wednesday night steak fries too.

My only regret? Not making more - this batch used up the last of the garden's haul from 2017. Only 10 months or so until next harvest!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Peanut Butter/Pumpkin And Applesauce Cookies for Dogs (Guest Post)

This guest post is provided by Greer Grenley, community member. Rover is the nation's largest network of 5-star pet sitters and dog walkers.

Just like humans, dogs can have allergies to certain foods. Unfortunately, some dogs are allergic to common foods you find in many dog treats, like chicken, fish, and dairy.

Dogs show signs of allergic reactions that are easy to spot if you know what you’re looking for: itchy or oozing skin; red, irritated eyes; nasal discharge; coughing or sneezing; inflamed ears; and swollen paws.

Pups can develop allergies to their food if they eat the same thing every day for months or years. One key is to switch off the flavor of the food while sticking to the same brand so that their body maintains the correct diet without becoming as prone to allergic reactions. I feed my dogs Natural Balance Pet Food but try different proteins each month, switching off between chicken, bison, salmon, and duck.

Although there are some remedies for allergies, like medications and shampoo treatments, there are still plenty of treats dogs can enjoy even with a sensitive diet. You can bake your own tasty delights using alternative ingredients that are fun for you to make and fun for your dog to eat.

I used my dogs as taste-tasters for this recipe, and they approved. Funnily enough, they’re totally healthy for a human to eat too! You can use either peanut butter or pumpkin for this recipe. I tried a batch of each and the dogs liked them both, and while I haven’t met a dog that doesn’t like peanut butter, pumpkin has a gooey texture that held the biscuits together well. Plus, pumpkin is good for a dog’s digestive system and helps firm the stool. You can also use both ingredients in the same batch if that’s what you prefer.

(From left - right): Franny, Franklin, Walter, and George are all patiently waiting for a sample.

Peanut Butter/Pumpkin And Applesauce Cookies for Dogs
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup peanut butter or 1 ¼ cups pumpkin
1 cup unsweetened organic applesauce
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp coconut oil (Note: coconut oil is great for a dog’s coat!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients well.
  3. Knead dough in a bowl. If the dough is too loose and crumbly, add coconut oil by the tablespoon until you can form a dough.
  4. Shape the mixture into 2 inch compact balls and flatten.
  5. Place cookies on a baking sheet, approximately ½ inch apart.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes or until dry.
  7. Let cool and serve.
*I baked them until they were hard and dark in color, although you can try different textures. These cookies are best stored in the fridge.

I’m certain your dogs will find them delicious. Happy baking!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Glittering Cookie Wands

Made with vegan cream cheese, vanilla sugar, and a secret ingredient, these crisp sticks are a fantastic addition to a child's birthday party or the Harry Potter fan club table!

Glittering Cookie Wands

I grew up with the Harry Potter book series, falling in love with the characters and their antics over the years. The series holds a special sort of "magic" for me as a big sister and a teacher as well - while Beatrix Potter, Hans Christian Andersen and C.S. Lewis failed to get my little sis (and many of my past students) turning pages, the adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione opened their minds and hearts to reading for pleasure. As a result, it's nigh impossible to get my sister to put down a book today, and our shelves are thoroughly laden with reading material.

Since school, with all it's bake sales and birthday parties, is back in session after the winter break, I thought it would be fitting - and I daresay, cute -  to make some "magic wand" cookies for a bit of sparkle. While I may not be a huge fan of standard sugar cookies - for too sweet, dry and bland for my tastes - I do like those made with a touch of cream cheese. Cream cheese has long been a favourite cookie ingredient of mine, since it adds just a hint of tang and a tenderness you can't get otherwise. I found a good base recipe on Keepin' it Kind, which had not only cream cheese but cornmeal for a bit of extra texture and a touch of sweetness.

Since I was making long, skinny cookies that were more prone to breakage, I opted to swap out the vegan butter for non-hydrogenated shortening which made the dough a touch sturdier. I also used vanilla sugar instead of plain and white whole wheat flour for a touch of added nutrition. The dough freezes exceptionally well, and the batch size is perfect for a child's birthday party where cookie decorating is one of the activities (do people still have birthday parties at home anymore, with pizza and homemade cake? They should!). If you need to serve a crowd, say a pre-fan convention party, you can double, and even triple the recipe. Bust out the sprinkles (and the dark chocolate if you're feeling fancy) and get to making some cookie magic!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels #BreadBakers

Whether soft or hard baked, a great pretzel is deep golden with a generous kiss of salt!

Whether soft or hard baked, a great pretzel is deep golden with a generous kiss of salt! These were made by my home ec class today. Great job! #yummy #yum #vegetarian #bread #baking #cheapeats #cheap #yeast #salt #pretzels #food

I have always loved pretzels. I'll eat them in any form - waffled, stuffed, sourdough, twisted, knotted, alphabet and even goldfish. However, my all time favourite form of this deep golden bread is soft and pillowy, with a light crusting of salt. A butter dip is definitely a bonus, but not a necessity. I've made my own pretzels before - gluten free and gluten-full - but they were both hard varieties, and I wanted to try my hand at making my own carnival-worthy snacks.

Soft pretzel making is very similar to making bagels - a relatively firm bread dough is shaped by hand, boiled (or in this case, basted) with an enhanced water solution and baked to deep golden brown perfection. The major differences between the two are the shape and the waterbath the dough is exposed to. While bagels are treated with honey-or malt-enhanced water (making it mildly acidic), pretzels are in an alkaline, baking soda baste. This gives them their signature flavour and crust. While usually a dip in the alkali bath is called for, I made these pretzels with my grade 1-8 Home Ec students and in the interest of timeliness and cleanliness I opted to brush the baking soda water over the risen dough instead. Both methods work and taste delicious, although the brushing does yield less even browning.

As for toppings, salt is always a great enhancement for pretzels but it is by no means the be-all-end-all option. Sanding sugar and cinnamon would be great for a sweet option, or coarse pepper, or even everything bagel seasoning. The options are endless!

This month, the #BreadBakers are making pretzels! There is a great range of options this month, from stuffed to sweet to sourdough and even saffron! Be sure to check out all the options below and say hi!
#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Why #SundaySupper Matters

If you've been following me for some time, you'll know that I am periodically part of an amazing blog event known as the Sunday Supper Movement. While family, work and general life the past year has kept me from participating as much as I wanted to, the spirit of coming together and sharing meals is still something I value and try to instill in my students.

While family meals don't have to be on Sunday - and certainly don't only have to be one day a week, the weekend is the perfect time to start the tradition. If you don't have to be out or at work, popping a chicken in to roast or making an oven-braised stew is easy, low-labour and makes the house smell wonderful, calling even the most wayward youth to the table. If staying home isn't on the agenda, why not try a crock pot meal, or whip up a casserole the night before that can be popped in the oven when you get home? Even leftovers have the power to bring together a family - I have fond memories of my parents and I sharing a mix of hot and fridge-cold day-old Chinese takeout after a busy day at work and school. While it didn't take any effort on our part, or create the feel-good aromas of Mom's Paella or my Citrus and Herb Roast Chicken, it was something we all loved and brought us together for an hour or so. 

So this week, although I'm not officially participating in the round up, I still encourage everyone who reads this to incorporate family meals - Sunday Suppers or otherwise - into your rotation. The reasons are vast and varied - some are listed below in the Sunday Supper Pledge, others you will discover on your own. Need inspiration? Check the Sunday Supper Movement website or search for #SundaySupper on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

I believe in Sunday Supper …
Because it brings my family together to share joys and challenges.
Because it starts as one day and soon becomes more.
Because it teaches us the importance of unplugging and being present.
Because it makes me closer to the ones I love.
Because it allows us to nourish each other in both body and mind.
Because it creates cherished memories and traditions of togetherness.
Because it celebrates good food and homemade meals.
Because it cements a legacy of strong families.