Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Why I Don't Do Resolutions...

I honestly don't know why I bother making "goal lists" or "resolutions" each New Year's Eve. I mean, really: looking back a year ago, I published a HUGE list of both my invented recipes and other people's blogged posts to try. Oh, how naive! In the past 365 days, I made eight... ONLY EIGHT! of the 34 to-tries I listed. Some of the things on last year's list have dropped off more or less permanently while others (like the Dutch Crunch Bread and Hawaiian Sweet Bread from Baking Bites for example) are still firmly in place.

This year was a big one for culinary achievements on my end, though. I completed a baking course at George Brown college in Toronto, baked one heck of an expensive batch of cookies, enrolled full-time in a 2-year Nutrition Management program in September, won a wicked Yahoo-sponsored contest, gave a nutrition seminar and watched my garden explode (again! Anw who could forget the carrot attack?). It was a big year for celebrations too, between my grandma's small gathering in January, my mom's HUGE 50th birthday party (with three different cakes and an awesome quinoa salad) and my dad's slightly problematic banana caked birthday in March, my 20th in April (with the colossal fail cake) and Andrew's 21st in July.

I spent a lot of this year learning from other food bloggers too, and boy oh boy did I learn a lot! I made some amazing mincemeat with help from David, I turned leftover frosting and some flavour extracts into cakeballs a la Bakerella. Bread-wise, not only did I have a resounding sourdough success, but I also went the veggie route with Alanna's ingenious recipe using beets and Meg Kat's sweet pumpkin creation. I conquered the exotic French macaron with some great inspiration from Tartlette too! Andrew and I joined We [Heart] Food in baking up one hell of a delicious vegan eggplant casserole, topping anything savoury that could have come out of my kitchen!

It's been a heck of a year, and I want to thank everyone who helped make mine as wonderful as it was. What will next year hold in the Yummy Smells kitchen? We are all going to have to wait and see for that one - but who knows?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

No Such Thing as Leftovers

I'm sure that pretty much everyone at this time of year falls victim to one of the pitfalls of kitchen creativity: leftovers! Even if you didn't play host to hordes of guests, preferring to be a member of the visiting mob, chances are that you had something or other pawned off on you. Whether it's an act of charity or (seemingly benign) malice by the donor, one thing is for certain. That, my friends, is that leftovers get boring!

Given that I can't eat our family's original Christmas meal, let alone leftovers, it may seem a little out of place that I mention them here. Well, the fact that I can't be a garbage pit for my own creations means that I often wind up with more than my fair share of the extras from my baking and cooking exploits, meaning I have to find new and interesting ways of pawning them off onto others without them realizing it! One such glut I had this year was that of leftover mincemeat. Even after the Christmas pies and tarts as well as today's treat (which I've made twice to date), I still have some left over which may have to find it's way back into my freezer for the time being. For now, though, I'm giving myself a pat on the back for thinking up at least one more way of using up this sweet, spicy fruit filling!

I actually got this idea after seeing these gooey, delicious-looking morsels on Meg Kat's site. Though I still have every intention of making the rolls as written, when I saw the dough recipe I thought "I have canned pumpkin... and I bet that mincemeat would taste good in that too! But rolls are messy and dry out... would a loaf work?".

So began my experiment. I figured that the loaf would essentially be like a series of the rolls squished together into one, so I took the base recipe and just changed the baking instructions to fit my case. I also added a touch of whole wheat flour for nutrition and flavour, mixed with gluten flour for texture, and I used lowfat milk instead of water to give some softness to the dough. The recipe was wonderfully easy to work with and lifted beautifully on both the first and second rises. The smell from the oven was beyond anything I would have imagined... think pumpkin pie, apple cake and cinnamon buns all baking at once. As I sliced the fresh loaf (the next day, since it finished baking at 9PM) all I could imagine was how good this would be for French toast (or screw the French part and just have toast!) and whether or not it would be overkill to make them into the scroll-like buns and dollop cream-cheese glaze on top.

Actually, thinking about it again, I'm tempted to try this bread not only with a vegan, soy milk and silken tofu (instead of milk and egg) enriched dough, but also Challah-style, rolling the filling in each strand of dough before braiding them into a moist, fruity loaf of goodness. Once the glut of Christmas food runs down I'll have to let you know if that works!

Mincemeat Swirled Pumpkin Bread
Serves 14
1 packet of active yeast
1/2 cup of warm, 1% milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp vital wheat gluten (optional, for a higher rise)
1/2 cup prepared mincemeat
  1. Mix yeast and warmed milk in a large bowl, allow to proof 10 minutes.
  2. Add in the rest of the dough ingredients and thoroughly combine to a dough. Add no more than 1/4 cup more flour!
  3. Knead for 7-10 minutes.
  4. Place in a greased bowl, turning to coat.
  5. Cover and allow to rise 1 hour, until doubled.
  6. Roll dough out into a large rectangle (about 1/4" thick).
  7. Spread the mincemeat evenly over the dough, then roll up tightly from the short end.
  8. Place into a greased loaf pan, cover and allow to rise 45 minutes.
  9. Preheat oven to 350F.
  10. Bake loaf 45 minutes, turn out of pan immediately and cool completely on a rack before slicing.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 129.8
Total Fat: 0.8 g
Cholesterol: 15.6 mg
Sodium: 12.1 mg
Total Carbs: 26.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.0 g
Protein: 4.2 g

I have some buckwheat pie dough left from the tarts too, but it's been used in a different (and savoury!) endeavour. What could that be, you ask?? Well, you'll have to check back a little later to see!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Crazy Christmas: Recap

Well, I hope everyone out there who was observing Christmas had a wonderful holiday with their loved ones! My sister and my celebrations actually lasted three days instead of the usual one, but that's what happens with our blended (and international) families!

Things got started on Christmas Eve when all 20 or so members of the Italian side of the family arrived for the "Feast of the Seven Fishes". Boy, do they know how to party... and keep partying! They were carrying on long after I went to bed that night (so I could get up early the next morning!) and we're still dealing with the leftover goodies from dinner. I didn't get any pictures, since everything flew off the buffet table at the speed of light, but I do have the recipes that I helped my mom write for the evening! The first actual recipe we used was from the March page of the new year's Milk calendar, for Fettuccine with Tuna and Tomatoes. The only change we made was to use a mix of whole-wheat rotini and penne for the fettuccine noodles, and personally I thought it was a better fit for the chunky sauce. It wasn't the favourite dish of the night, though... we were catering to little(ish) kids in the group so I can't say I'm surprised, but I wish we hadn't doubled the amount!

The main star of the evening's offerings was a creamy mango, scallop and pasta curry. The idea for our concoction came from another calendar, this time from the M&M Meat Shops edition! By the time I had gotten through my tweaks of the original recipe though (and sorry, it isn't available online for your comparison!) it didn't look a thing like it's former self. Mom and I found organic bucatini (like hollow spaghetti) and whole-wheat linguine on sale at the grocery the weekend before the party, and it seemed a shame not to use them with the recipe even though it called for angel hair pasta. In making this recipe the day of the party we discovered that the liquid amounts in the original recipe were off slightly too, making for a runny sauce base. I edited my copy to reflect our corrections and I think it turned out very well - I'm guessing our guests would agree (even the kids) since there was only a teeny bowl left for Andrew to take home at the end of the party!

Sweet Seafood - Noodle Curry
Serves 4 as a main
3/4 cup fat free, low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup evaporated skim milk
1/4 cup fresh or frozen (thawed and drained) mango chunks
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1/4 cup water
1 small white onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 plum tomato, diced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 cup white wine
2 tsp olive oil
1 lb sea scallops
1/2 lb angel hair pasta, cooked and drained

  1. In a blender or food processor, puree chicken broth, evaporated milk, mango and jalapeno pepper until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Heat water in a large, deep saucepan.
  3. Add onion, cooking until translucent.
  4. Add garlic and tomato and cook 2-3 minutes further.
  5. Stir in tomato paste, basil, thyme, mustard powder, and curry powder. Cook 1 minute, until fragrant.
  6. Add pureed milk / broth / mango mixture and bring to a simmer. DO NOT LET BOIL!
  7. Cook, uncovered, on LOW for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. In a separate frypan over high heat, heat olive oil.
  9. Sear scallops, without stirring, 1 minute on each side.
  10. Add scallops to simmering curry sauce, followed by the cooked pasta. Simmer 1 minute, stirring, then serve.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 434.8
Total Fat: 5.4 g
Cholesterol: 40.9 mg
Sodium: 913.1 mg
Total Carbs: 58.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.1 g
Protein: 35.9 g

After the Christmas Eve party excitement, it seemed like we hardly got a chance to sleep a wink before Santa came and went! I had to be up bright and early (even before my mom, and she's an earlybird!) to go to Andrew's for our annual gift exchange with his family - something I always look forward to since I don't spend a whole lot of time there. Like every year (and even not on Christmas) I was spoiled absolutely rotten by Andrew and his parents... I feel guilty for being given so much! I also got to watch the Walt Disney World Christmas Parade on CBC that morning, where I caught one of my schoolfriends on TV! He works at the Canadian EPCOT pavillion and gave me the heads up that he's be on TV, so I had to watch for him!

We headed back for a late brunch at my place, which included (for them) our yearly Brioche scroll, plain Challah and (the new) Apple-Vanilla Honey Challah braid as well as scrambled eggs, peameal back bacon, sausage, and a huge fruit platter! My sister, who doesn't eat any of that stuff (picky, picky...) opted for a huge plate of pancakes with chocolate chips, margarine and syrup for her Christmas fuel. Me? Well, not feeling so hot that Christmas AM, I oped for simplicity - a big bowl of puffed Kamut grains and a mug of green tea, followed by a few pieces of melon from the platter, a clementine orange, and eventually a couple pieces of 70% Lindt chocolate from a bar that was in my stocking! Between my sister and I we built a mountain of wrapping paper, tissue and ribbons that morning too, which quite entertained our cats and dog!

Dinner that night was at yet another house - my paternal grandmother's - where turkey, rolls, veggies and my grandma's famous mashed potatoes were on the table. Sheer jealousy that I couldn't partake... but no matter! Teriyaki rice, Napa cabbage and tuna made for a satisfying holiday meal on my end. Dinner was capped off with an offering of my green tomato mincemeat pie as well as a Devil's Food cake for my sister. The cake, sadly, was nothing more than a box mix (that's all she likes) that I doctored up with whole milk instead of water and frosted with (sigh) canned icing and tubed decorating frosting. It did, in it's defense, hold up very well and looked gorgeous at any rate!

What I was looking forward to this holiday was not gifts or Christmas feasts though - it was the most ultimate expression of Christmas emotion and joy that I know of. It comes in the form of a yearly concert by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, who never cease to blow me away with their rocked-out renditions of songs like Pachebel's Canon in D, the Carol of the Bells, and even classical Beethoven. I cry every concert from the emotional power of the storytelling (bridged between narration and music), gape in awe at the insane use of lasers, strobe lights and pyrotechnics and always come away feeling like there is some Christmas cheer and hope left in the world. It's a tradition we've had as a family for the past 4 years and with any luck we'll keep it going for as long as they tour!

This year's holiday was a definite upswing from last year, even with the inevitable glitches that happen with every group event. Family and friends will always provide the true spirit of the day regardless of the outside world's opinions and actions, and I'm truly grateful for those I have with me in my life. Have a very happy holiday, everyone - may peace and goodwill be with you and joy be in your heart for the year to come!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Christmas Fifty

Merry Christmas, everyone! Here is a fun, funky list done in the style of the Omnivore's 100 (and assorted variations) to entertain you while you wait for your turkeys to roast!
  1. Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
  2. Bold all the items you’ve tasted. (In this case, I'm colouring mine).
  3. Place an asterisk after all the items you’ve cooked/prepared.
  4. Cross out anything you never want to try
  5. Add an exclamation mark after anything your really want to try.
The Christmas Fifty (from Very Good Taste)
  1. Crystallised or candied fruits
  2. Egg nog
  3. Bûche de Noël, or Yule log
  4. Rum balls*
  5. Bebinca
  6. Roasted chestnuts*
  7. Cavallucci
  8. Tourtière
  9. Uszka
  10. Port & Stilton
  11. Hallaca
  12. Roast goose
  13. Lefse
  14. Sugar plums!
  15. Romeritos
  16. Pinnekjøtt
  17. Hot toddy
  18. Christmas cake
  19. Tamales
  20. Sorpotel
  21. Panettone
  22. Candy canes
  23. Pasteles!
  24. Speculaas
  25. Makowiec
  26. Christmas pudding*
  27. Stollen
  28. Figgy pudding
  29. Lebkuchen
  30. Turrón
  31. Mince pies*
  32. Wassail bowls
  33. Buñuelos
  34. Pio Quinto
  35. Marzipan fruits
  36. Mulled wine
  37. King cake
  38. Christmas beach barbecue
  39. Cola de mono!
  40. Lutefisk
  41. Kutia
  42. Pizzelle
  43. Dominostein!
  44. Cranberry sauce*
  45. Pfeffernüsse
  46. Satsumas or clementines
  47. Pumpkin pie*
  48. Smalahove
  49. Nut roast
  50. Brandy butter

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tidings of Comfort and Joy...

Well, the (rather extended) family is due to arrive in T-minus 2 hours, my grandparents are already here helping with prep, and my mom and I have been up since 7 in the kitchen baking this year's classic Challah. It may not be Christmas Day, but the (some say not actually) Italian "Feast of the Seven Fishes" (okay, what kind of grammar is that?? FISH, people!!) is on tonight and we're hosting yet again. It's been a harrowing enough ride between menu planning, shopping and potluck-orchestrating, not to mention altercations between family traditions and schedules, to cause anyone to retreat to the safety of their room! My mom is totally unfazed by all this activity (or so she seems), even though she was struck with food poisoning at 3AM this morning. Props to her... I'm just trying to stay out of the way!

Given the stress levels (particularly mine, for some odd reason) this week, I'm not surprised that I turned to a soothing comfort food this afternoon when a snack craving hit. I had, in a fortuitous moment Monday morning, made a batch of fantastic roasted applesauce that I had adapted from my fellow Torontonian Kevin - the post had been staring at me, daring me to break down and make some leftover apples into the goodness that is spiced, caramelized fruit sauce. I opted for a chunky blend of Russets, Honeycrisps and Mutsus basically because it's what I had in the fridge, and it was (and is) fantastic plain, in oatmeal and as "jam" on toast. Excuse me, I'm going to get another bowl...

Have a very merry Christmas everyone, I'll be back on the 27th with more goodies!

Roasted Applesauce
Serves 4
4 medium-large apples, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup water
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Place apple pieces in a deep roasting dish.
  3. Combine water, sugar and cinnamon, pour over apples and toss.
  4. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until apples are soft and beginning to caramelize.
  5. Mash the apples with a potato masher for a chunky texture or run through a food mill for a fine puree.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 117.6
Total Fat: 0.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 0.0 mg
Total Carbs: 30.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.0 g
Protein: 0.4 g

Monday, December 22, 2008

Meeting Mince

My dad is famous at Christmas time for his particular love for two foods: over-baked shortbreads and mincemeat tarts. And really, who am I to deny him the pleasure this time of year? I've mentioned Christmas traditions in earlier posts this year, and even though my dad was recently diagnosed as pre-diabetic I couldn't let this year go by without a few tokens of the holiday spirit gracing his table!

Mincemeat filling (which I'm sure you know no longer contains animal products for the most part... if you really search you can find some versions with suet) is notorious for it's high sugar content due to all the dried fruits that make it tasty... at the very least raisins and candied peel make an appearance, and the whole concoction is usually bound together with various sugary syrups (brown sugar and brandy in this mix, and not so nice corn syrups and glucose-fructose in the commercial kinds). Unlike previous years when I did resort to the jarred filling after making a scratch (but white-flour) pie dough to hold it all, this time around I was lucky enough to have several jars of a truthfully home-made, spicy mincemeat in my freezer begging to be used. Props to David of Wish I Were Baking for the recipe inspiration and basic formula - after (multiple) samplings I can assure everyone that it is fantastic both pre- and post-freezing, not to mention incredibly versatile (but more on that later!).

Armed with the wholesome blackstrap molasses, apple, carrot and tomato (!) filling, I set about making an equally delicious crust. All white flour was out the window, but I knew there had to be a little bit in the mix otherwise I'd have a fall-aparty mess on my hands... something I wasn't prepared to deal with in a sleepy haze this weekend! I settled for the addition of buckwheat flour and ground flaxseed and chilled the dough overnigh to make it more workable. In the twelve hours I let it rest I also came up with a new layer of fun for the pie - a base of sliced tart apples to break up the texture and sweetness of the heavier, spicy mincemeat, and a decorative top crust in place of a regular lattice or full-pastry crown.

It didn't take me long at all to whip this pie together, since both the dough and the mincemeat were pre-made... I was rewarded with a tender dough (from the lower gluten) that was more flavourful and healthier than the regular pastry I use, and I even got to make some extra tartlets with the leftover pastry and filling - luckily Andrew is a mincemeat fan too!

Thanks to Slashfood for featuring the below photo on their page today too, I'm honoured!!
Apple - Mince Pie
Serves 12
2 tsp ground flaxseed
2 tbsp hot water
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
2/3 cup shortening
1 tbsp vinegar
2-3 tbsp ice water
1 large tart apple, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cups prepared mincemeat
  1. Combine flaxseed and hot water in a small dish, set aside to cool completely.
  2. Place flours into a mixing bowl.
  3. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  4. Add cooled flaxseed mixture and mix in.
  5. Combine vinegar and ice water and slowly add it to the flour, mixing until it just comes together. You may not need all the water.
  6. Wrap dough in cling film and refrigerate 12 hours.
  7. Preheat oven to 450F.
  8. Roll out 2/3 of the dough and line a 9" pie tin, trimming the excess dough and reserving it for decoration.
  9. Line the shell with a layer of the thinly sliced apples.
  10. Pour mincemeat overtop of the apples.
  11. Using the reserved pie dough, cut out a lattice or other shapes and decorate the top of the pie.
  12. Place into the oven and bake 10 minutes.
  13. Reduce the oven temperature to 350F and bake a further 30 minutes.
  14. Cool completely on a rack before serving.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 199.9
Total Fat: 11.9 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 5.0 mg
Total Carbs: 22.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.1 g
Protein: 1.8 g

What It's All About

Even though the Christmas carols have been blaring and the displays in the stores have been up since late October, the winter holiday season at my house only truly begins when we fire up our ovens. With the first batch of shortbreads comes a bevy of excited planning in all aspects: who's shopping when, where we're going to wrap and hide the gifts (which leads to where the tape/ribbon/bows are - since they disappear every year!), where us kids are going for Christmas dinner and (most importantly!) when the bread is going to be made.

Without the bread on the breakfast table every year, Christmas would cease to be as special for me and my mom. From when I was old enough to stand on a chair next to my mom, the day or two before the "big day" were spent in a pile of flour, yeast, butter and eggs as we made my mom's classic Filled Brioche and Challah. My job would always be to "punch down" the risen doughs, decorate the Brioche with flaked almonds and braid the Challah loaf, and I would often be found hovering over our sink (where my mom would put the bowl of dough in warm water to rise), occasionally poking the dough to watch it spring back and hoping my mom wouldn't see me do it!

Something about the smell of yeasty doughs and slowly toasting shiny crusts seems to make everything in our house feel festive and even giddy... the days of shortbread cookies and breadmaking with my mom and sister are always filled with laughter (okay, hysterics) and singing along to various holiday CDs (usually the source of the hysteria). Yesterday for example my mom brought out the album us kids dread all year - Handel's Messiah - and insisted on playing the whole disc while the three of us made the last shortbreads of the year. To cope with the "aaaaahing" as my sister puts it, Teaghan started making up her own interpretations of the lyrics based on how the choir singing it sounded. Soon I was on the floor in tears as my sister took praises of the birth of Christ and twisted them into "bump the Chinese boy" (okay, I know we aren't a PC family! It was funny at the time though). It was a great cap-off to the pre-Christmas festivities and for the first time in months brought us together again as a family.

We only had time yesterday to make the brioche loaves (recipe here) in between the three batches of shortbreads, and my mom helped me pull together two batches of pie dough for this week too. Andrew braved the stormy weather to bring over candied cherries, cream cheese and butter so we could pull together more of his favourite cookies too - which barely got done before he needed to outrun the flurries! Tomorrow we'll be making our classic Challah braid after a trip to the dentist (how ironic!), and this year we have a new arrival to the breadbasket too! I actually hadn't planned on making another loaf of bread for Christmas (screwing with tradition doesn't usually work out too well in this house!) but when I told my mom about a loaf of Apple Honey Challah I spotted on Baking and Books in August (though the original post is over a year old!) she suggested adding it to the brunch menu. I don't need to be told twice to put on my (oven) mitts! So I grabbed the recipe, saving it on my desktop for safekeeping. This past week I began toying with the recipe on paper, shaping it to incorporate my favourite, richly flavoured Kamut flour (actually of Egyptian origin!), applesauce, and vanilla (from another of Ari's recipes) and on Sunday night, the first night of Chanukah, I pulled it all together.

In the end, a fragrant, golden lobster-tail of a loaf came piping hot from the oven, and though it wasn't as large and didn't rise as much as I expected my mom assured me it would be fine - her Challah recipe has twice the amount of ingredients as this one (a fact I didn't know) so it's to be assumed that mine would be smaller. We haven't cut into it yet, but I can't wait to see what it's like inside on Christmas day. As Bread Baking Day #15 draws near, with the theme of Festive Breads being hosted at Annarasa, I hope you all have a chance to make (and break) bread with your loved ones this holiday in some way... the world can always use the extra love the kitchen brings!

Happy Chanukah to those celebrating, merry Christmas to those going to celebrate, and happy December to everyone in the world!

Vanilla-Apple Honey Challah
Makes 1 loaf, approximately 18 large slices
½ cup warm water
½ tbsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 cup warm milk
2 eggs
2 tbsp vanilla
3 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp honey
2 cups Kamut flour
1 tsp vital wheat gluten (optional)
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
2 cups flour
1/2 cup diced dry apples
1 egg white (for egg wash)
  1. In a large bowl combine the water, yeast, and sugar. Allow to stand 10 minutes.
  2. Beat in the milk, eggs, vanilla, applesauce, oil and honey.
  3. Stir in Kamut flour, followed by gluten, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  4. Gradually begin beating in remaining flour, alternating with the apple pieces, until the dough clears the sides of the mixing bowl and is almost too stiff to mix (it will be too stiff if you are doing this by hand).
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead about 5 minutes.
  6. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat.
  7. Cover and allow it to rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
  8. Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  9. Deflate the dough, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead briefly and braid as desired.
  10. Place the braided dough on your baking sheet, cover loosely and let rise 1 hour.
  11. Brush the dough with egg white.
  12. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the bread is a deep golden brown and sounds hollow when you thump it on the bottom.
  13. Transfer it to a baking rack to cool.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 146.6
Total Fat: 1.9 g
Cholesterol: 24.3 mg
Sodium: 18.7 mg
Total Carbs: 28.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.4 g
Protein: 5.2 g

Friday, December 19, 2008

The End of Another Year's Cookies

I'm going to blame the weather... I've been "off" any sort of social activity the past couple days, and no doubt the thousand centimetres of snow we've been getting today are not helping matters in the least. Top it off with a bout of extreme exhaustion and you have me still needing to finish gift-wrapping, pen pal letter-writing (something I've been meaning to do since April... sorry Jodi!), blanket-knitting and bread- pie- tart- and (more) cookie-baking! I'm hoping that the craptastic weather lets up soon so that Andrew can come in as the backup cavalry and do things for help me while I'm "low". At least he'll get some more good eatin' out of the deal!

I actually used part of this recipe to "pay him off" last weekend when he helped me make the gazillion other batches of cookies I did, and as far as I can tell he enjoyed them thoroughly... I mean, they have raisins, Craisins, chocolate chips and hazelnuts in them for Pete's sake! Top it off with the fact that they're wheat-free (they do have gluten though... it's spelt flour) and vegan for a great (and pretty healthy!) mid-holiday-preparations snack.

The original recipe for these cookies was written by Dreena Burton, who made them with pecans, chocolate chips, almond extract and dried cherries. Well, I liked the idea of her recipe but I didn't have half those ingredients - so I turned the recipe on it's head. These were the last "different" batch of cookies I made for this holiday season, though I still have some "remake" batches to do this weekend... namely at least another batch of both these and these babies! I figured they would be a fitting cap-off to Susan's Christmas Cookie Event, and my last submission to this year's roundup (find it here). It's actually my submission to Food Network Canada's Cooking Club Event for December too - they posted 12 different holiday recipes on Food for Thought to choose from and I think I picked a winner! You can check out that rundown(and ongoing photo submissions) on Flickr if you're interested.

Stay tuned... the holiday sweets season is coming to a (thoroughly baked) conclusion soon!

Dreena Inspired Drop Cookies
Makes 16
1 cup spelt flour
1/3 cup ground hazelnuts
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tbsp vanilla
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup chocolate chips
*Note: I threw in about 2 tbsp of peanuts I had in my pantry, but they weren't part of the original plan... I was scavenging!*
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F, line baking sheets with parchment or Silpat.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Separately, mix syrup with the vanilla and oil.
  4. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined.
  5. Add cranberries, raisins, and chocolate chips; mix in well.
  6. Bake 11 minutes, until just golden (do not overbake!).
    Let cool on the sheet for no more than 1 minute before moving to a cooling rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 96.3
Total Fat: 5.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 2.6 mg
Total Carbs: 13.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.5 g
Protein: 0.4 g

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Butter - Banned Shortbread

Not all Christmas cookies are filled with butter... at least of the dairy variety! For me, no cookie plate is complete without something peanut-buttery, and when I found this recipe on an olive oil producer's website I was intrigued enough to save it into my favourites for those (common) times when I don't have butter or margarine hanging around the kitchen.
That was ten months ago! I obviously baked cookies of all kinds in the interim, mind you - but for some odd reason this old-fashioned looking and insanely simple cookie slipped through my baking radar. But that all changed this past weekend, when I came across a half jar of peanut butter, a bag of oats and some leftover cocoa powder in my pantry. Icing sugar is pretty much the reigning sweetener these days in our kitchen (what with various shortbreads and macarons being made!) so it was good fortune that this recipe called for it as well.
What I was missing from the original recipe was the chopped peanuts. Andrew however, being the wonderfully resourceful man he is, came to the rescue by happening on the 2 tablespoons or so of leftover Skor bits I had from the apple cookies I made (way back in October!). I don't know if they really made a difference to the cookies, since it looked like they just melted into the dough, but they smelled absolutely divine out of the oven and I didn't hear any complaints from my tasting squad!

Chocolate - Peanut Shortbread Rustica
Makes 16 Wedges
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup uncooked oats
¼ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp cold coffee
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup finely chopped, roasted and salted peanuts (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, and grease a 9” springform pan, lining the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa and icing sugar.
  3. Whisk in oats.
  4. Add brown sugar, olive oil, coffee and peanut butter, beating until well blended (dough will be very stiff).
  5. Add peanuts, mixing well, then pat the mixture evenly and firmly over the bottom of the prepared pan.
  6. Score into 16 wedges.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before the removing sides of the pan.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 175.0
Total Fat: 12.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 63.9 mg
Total Carbs: 14.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.3 g
Protein: 5.0 g

In case you missed it, Susan (of FoodBlogga fame) is hosting a Christmas Cookie Event (and roundup here) on her blog until the 21st. These cookies are joining the party... are you??

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Caffeine Hit!

If I was to guess what the most commonly consumed beverage was by my classmates at college last week while they battled exams, I would say without a doubt it would be coffee. To be specific, Timmy's Coffee - because it's our campus brew. But school is out now, and everyday grounds are off to the side. There's now time to sit back in the morning, listen to the coffeemaker drip and bubble and read the paper. Or if you're my stepbrother, no coffee graces your mug. No, no... it's all about the demi-tasse of piping hot, pitch black espresso for him. And half the week's worth of bread and Nutella on the side.

I know that kind of morning is probably nowhere near reality for most of us - even though it is Holiday time most of us are still working in between shopping, wrapping, delivering, cooking and chauffeuring, and we're all a little strung out, right? (On a side note, why does snow automatically mean people can't drive - or park - properly anymore?? Gah!).

I do, however, try to do some of the Toronto Star crosswords every day - and thanks to feed readers I can get the important bits (read: food section!) on my homepage. They're running a Cookie Countdown this month (a familiar theme in the media I'm finding lately!) and I love looking at each day's recipes for inspiration. Eric Vellend featured a type of shortbread cookie a while back packed full of ground espresso and Kahlua - and I was sold. I knew these would be a hit amongst hits with both the Italians and the wonderful people who appreciate what I make them, so I tweaked the original recipe very slightly, and I wasn't disappointed! They quite literally flew out of the tin when I took them in yesterday!

I'm sure by now you've all guessed where this recipe is headed - FoodBlogga's Eat Christmas Cookies Event! I'm just about to dive into her latest NPR article too, I want that egg cookie recipe! The continuing round-up is posted here.

Espresso Coins
Makes about 30
1 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp cold water
1 cup flour
3/4 cup spelt flour
1 tbsp ground espresso
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup stick margarine, room temperature
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp coffee liqueur
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment.
  2. Combine cornstarch and water in a small dish, set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix flours, espresso, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  4. Cream margarine, shortening and sugars until fluffy.
  5. Add coffee liqueur, followed by the cornstarch slurry, mixing until combined.
  6. Slowly beat in dry ingredients.
  7. Drop tablespoons of dough 2" apart on trays and flatten slightly.
  8. Bake 15 minutes, cool completely on sheets
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 88.7
Total Fat: 4.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 36.3 mg
Total Carbs: 10.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.5 g
Protein: 0.8 g

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Remember what I planned with my mom's co-workers for her past birthday? Well, today it was my turn to fall "victim" to the generosity of her office. I went into her workplace today to play Santa's "cookie elf" with the boxes of goodies I made this weekend after a Christmas lunch with a few of the ladies... well, lunch was eaten and we arrived back at the office, where I asked how people wanted to handle the handouts (last year my mom and I wandered the office with napkins and cookie tins!).

Well, call me slow, but I believed what I was told when one of my dear friends (and best customers) Magdalena replied that it would be best if I waited until 2ish to start making the rounds since most of the office's employees were in an end-of-year meeting. Okay, I reasoned, it was only 20 minutes... and I was kinda drowsy anyways after lunch so I dozed in one of the oversized "wheely" chairs my mom had in her cubicle. What do I know about the way these people plan anyways?? I don't do offices!

Mom roused me at 2ish, and I grabbed one of the many cookie tins and set out towards the "central" floor area of the office where we knew people would find them... well, people didn't find the cookies - I found the people! A huge crowd of people (most of whom I only really knew by reputation, or not at all!) had gathered in wait. After exclamations of glee over the new cookie bounty (and the subsequent raiding of the tins) calmed down (that to-do was a gift to me in itself... most of you know how it feels to have your cooking be appreciated!), one of the women stepped forward.

She presented me with an envelope and gave a short, but perfect speech thanking me for all the baked goods that I had been sending their way over the past couple years, mentioning how they often made the long days of her and her co-workers bearable and how much they all appreciated me taking the time and money out of my day to think of them. My jaw dropped... I was (and still am) flabbergasted. Astonished. Incredulous. And incredibly grateful.

Monday, December 15, 2008

An Alliterative Menu

Well, I've almost completed my to-do list of holiday baking and running around! The only thing missing from my personal roster at present is my annual gift of mincemeat tarts for my dad (and I get to use the homemade stuff this year!)... I was intending to make them this afternoon - honest! - but I got hung up at the pharmacy and then suffered a case of oven-already-in-use syndrome when a loaf of bread (forthcoming!) finished it's rise earlier than expected.

Ah well... that's what Wednesday is for, I guess! I would say that tomorrow was a prime candidate for baking, except it isn't... I'm Cookie Santa-ing with my mom then, and then it's sushi time!!

This Sunday, though, I did get a fair bit of the cookieage done thanks mostly to Andrew's neverending willingness to help with getting ingredients out and manouvering sheets and cooling racks (not to mention taking photos like the one on the left) while I willy-nillied my way through the recipes. By the end of the day, I had baked off 7 different types of cookies and 10 batches in total (Mom and I made 4 sets of her famous shortbreads... 2 lbs of butter, man!).

As if having cookies of all kinds coming out of our ears wasn't enough, Mom and I developed a savoury recipe on the weekend too! Cel (the stepdad) had been gifted with a whole pheasant by one of his business partners, and never having cooked that type of bird before my mom asked me for help. As if I, the sole (mostly) vegetarian in the house, would know how to cook a whole roast pheasant! Thank God for RecipeZaar for ideas... and my creativity for substitutions! Of course (since I wasn't the sole cook of this experiment) I didn't get photos, but I did get reviews - delicious, succulent, and wonderful were some of the labels it recieved!

Photo - Free Pheasant
Serves 4
1 (2lb) pheasant, skinned and split in half
2 tsp paprika
2 tbsp olive oil
½ cup chicken stock
½ cup white wine
½ cup apricot jam
¼ cup orange juice
¼ teaspoon ground ginger

  1. Wash pheasant and pat dry.
  2. Sprinkle on both sides with paprika.
  3. Heat oil in a deep pot, and brown pheasant on both sides.
  4. Pour chicken stock and wine over the pheasant.
  5. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add water if needed and turn meat several times to prevent burning.
  6. Combine remaining ingredients in a small dish.
  7. Uncover the pot and bring liquid to a brisk simmer.
  8. Let liquid cook away, then baste with sauce.
  9. Simmer uncovered, basting frequently, for 15-20 minutes.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 319.9
Total Fat: 9.9 g
Cholesterol: 49.3 mg
Sodium: 238.7 mg
Total Carbs: 29.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.5 g
Protein: 22.3 g

But really, who am I kidding? I know why you're all here... you want the sugar! Come on, Santa doesn't come to people's houses for dinner, does he?? Cookies are where it's at - to be specific, FoodBlogga's Eat Christmas Cookies Event is where it's at! Yes, I'm going to spend the last couple days of the round-up posting this weekend's recipes (while crossing my fingers that Susan's okay with the sheer number of them!). The round-up page is always current, so stay tuned for the new treats coming your way from around the world!

These cookies were a personal achievement for me in terms of turning tastebuds - Andrew claims not to like gingerbread, but he ate three of these babies and declared them "the best gingerbreads hes ever had", especially when warm. Since I used blackstrap, rather than fancy molasses, and part spelt flour too, it only seemed fair that I could decorate them with candy-coated chocolate balls... gotta keep the balance!

Spicy Molasses Snappers
Makes about 4 dozen
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup shortening
1 cup blackstrap molasses
1/3 cup eggnog
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 cups flour
2 cups spelt flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  1. Cream sugars and shortening until fluffy.
  2. Add molasses, eggnog, vanilla and vinegar, beating in well.
  3. Whisk together dry ingredients in another bowl. Beat into creamed mixture.
  4. Wrap dough well in plastic and chill 8 hours, or up to 36.
  5. Preheat oven to 375F.
  6. Roll dough out on a floured board and cut into shapes, placing on parchment-lined sheets. Decorate if desired.
  7. Bake 8 minutes, do not overbake!
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 114.6
Total Fat: 4.3 g
Cholesterol: 0.7 mg
Sodium: 5.9 mg
Total Carbs: 17.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.8 g
Protein: 1.5 g

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Back to the Cookie-ing

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the danger of watching the Food Network with someone you love. When we lived in our (awesome) basement apartment up in Ottawa back when I was at Carleton U, Andrew and I would kill our class-less mornings by watching the line-up on FoodTV (after Rachael Ray, that is! Laugh if you must, but I still enjoy her talk show, and her recipes are sound in composition - if not always in time frame!). Our tradition has continued, in a fashion, to today - when we're spending a Sunday together (unfortunately the only day we both really have free, thanks to his weird work hours and my school schedule) that's almost always the channel we have on. Hell, that's almost always the channel I have on all the time - even when I'm not technically watching a show! What can I say, I need background noise to work... silence scares me. I even put music on at night to sleep!

Anyways, a few months ago we caught one of my absolute favourite (and sadly, no longer produced) shows - Sugar with Anna Olson - where the featured goodie was candied fruit. Normally, I loathe the stuff in any form: pineapple, cherries, mango, what have you... probably a throwback from eating too many dried out, green cherry-centred shortbreads at family Christmas parties. One of Anna's creations was an icebox-style cookie with cherries and pecans, and it caught my eye as a gorgeous biscuit, and it struck Andrew as a good starting point for a Christmas plate snack!

Needless to say, Andrew was after me for months afterwards to make them. I was hesitant to dive headlong into another Olson recipe, though: I love watching her show, but for some odd reason the recipes that say yum on screen never seem to translate well in my kitchen! I've had some major issues over the years with two promising recipes of hers: this lemon-poppyseed cake that failed to cook through, and these fig bars that, well... look nothing like hers! So, I knew enough to take the recipe as just a starting point and branch off into my own thing.

My own thing involved nixing the nuts, as well as part of the butter, and adding in cream cheese (like I did for these cookies) for some body and cheesecakey-like goodness. I made the dough a couple weeks ago, rolled it into a log and froze it so that now when the kitchen's in constant upheaval I don't have to bother the other kitchen users with dragging out my mixer and the like. I baked off a couple of these as testers yesterday and was pleased with the results... baking times had to be toyed with of course due to the fact the dough was frozen, but in the end I was rewarded with beautiful, stained-glass like shortbready circles. Andrew hasn't tasted them yet, but we're going to finish the batch today and I'm sure he'll have an opinion! I've also got plans to whip out some "blackstrap spice men" cookies (there's more than ginger in those suckers), and with any luck at all I'll be able to make a version of another FN cookie and a Toronto Star featured one too! Tomorrow, I'm hoping to make a loaf of bread and possibly mincemeat tarts in between doctor's appointments (I made that filling ages ago, and I intend to use it!), and Tuesday's the cookie delivery trip down to ExxonMobil with my mom! I can't wait... I even have a Kensington Market jaunt with my dad on Thursday to look forward to after all that jazz. Christmas is coming early!

For your consolation, I'll leave you with my recipe for these sugar bombs (and send it off to Susan's Eat Christmas Cookies roundup too over at FoodBlogga). Hopefully you'll like their taste as much as I enjoyed their delectable aroma from the oven!

Glacé Cherry Shortbreads
Makes about 4 dozen cookies
2/3 cup salted butter, softened
1/4 cup low-fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup cake flour
10 oz glace cherries (red or green), cut in half
  1. Cream butter, cream cheese and icing sugar until fluffy.
  2. Beat in egg, vanilla and lemon extract.
  3. Stir flours into the butter mixture until well blended.
  4. Fold in cherries by hand.
  5. Divide dough into two logs, about 1" across.
  6. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 12 hours (alternately, wrap plactic-covered logs with foil and freeze up to 3 months).
  7. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a baking tray with parchment or a Silpat (do not grease - buy the parchment, you'll want it!).
  8. Cut 1/8" thick slices of the cookie dough, place on sheets 1" apart.
  9. Bake 8 minutes (or frozen dough for 12), until barely coloured.
  10. Cool completely on sheets.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 78.4
Total Fat: 3.0 g
Cholesterol: 11.9 mg
Sodium: 27.8 mg
Total Carbs: 11.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.2 g
Protein: 1.1 g

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bakeries and Blueberries

I don't know what was going on today downtown - I was in the Roncesvalles Village district of Toronto this morning for an acupuncture appointment (a botched episode of planning... they booked me in for YESTERDAY, not today... grr...) and the local bakeries were crammed full of people! Normally on a Saturday they will have customers, sure, but this morning looked like the end of the pastry world was nigh! I'm telling you, people with sometimes 2 or three big bakery boxes of pączki and croissants and breads of all kinds were in abundance, and boy, did the air smell good! Luckily, I knew that I have a list of holiday baking a gazillion miles long to do, so I was able to avoid that temptation!

One of the things I made this week were these beauties for one of my school friends' Christmas gifts. I adapted these slightly from Alton Brown's recipe, and they really are the perfect "cafe" style muffin - fluffy, light and packed with blueberry goodness! My friends Sabrina and Johana (she shared... nice girl!) both ate one during our exam yesterday and declared them wonderful - not too sweet, not heavy, and the perfect pick me up after a night of cramming! I'm going to pass this post on to the Home Made Christmas Gifts Event at My Kitchen Treasures too, so everyone can share the love!

If you make jumbo muffins, increase the baking time to 35 minutes and test with a toothpick for doneness.

Big Blueberry Muffins
Makes 6 jumbo or 12 regular muffins
12.5 ounces (360g) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch salt
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh (or frozen, unthawed) blueberries
  1. Preheat oven to 375F, grease 12 large (or 6 jumbo) muffin cups.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
  3. In another large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, egg and buttermilk.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and fold gently to incorporate just slightly, then add blueberries and fold those in. A lumpy batter is fine here.
  5. Portion the mixture into greased muffin pans.
  6. Place into the oven, increase the temperature to 400 degrees.
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.
  8. Remove from oven and turn out onto a rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 247.2
Total Fat: 10.2 g
Cholesterol: 18.5 mg
Sodium: 72.1 mg
Total Carbs: 35.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.0 g
Protein: 4.2 g

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Lucky Loaf

This past week, I could have used all the luck I could get (and boy, I had a good run there! Check out my 2nd place recipe here on Yahoo, or here on my blog!). But now exams are over, and I have a nice loooong stretch of vay-cay to enjoy. I'm not kidding either... I have a full month off! Hey, who said college was a bad thing? I haven't had to think yet! I said think, not work... I need the break (don't we all!).

One of the things I did do while avoiding the inevitable study sessions was bake, and I believe bread is a prime candidate for any stressed out student! Think about it... you get to beat the snot out of something for a good long while (the longer the better, usually!) and in the end you wind up with a delicious, endorphin-releasing block of carbs that smells up your house something awesome. Even better is that you can control the quality of your home-made loaf, so you can make a "body temple" type of loaf full of whole grains and seeds or (if you're feeling devilish) you can make a butter-packed, sugar-swirled brioche begging for a smear of peanut butter or Nutella.

For me, I wanted something different. Something wholesome, yet still tasty, that would be at home as a sandwich or plain toast. Better yet, I wanted something that would keep me and my family going for the rest of the week without leaving us with the guilt typical of post-Christmas life. What I began to develop (starting from this recipe by Alicia) was a protein and fibre-rich, high-rising loaf with a buttery flavour not reminiscent of the secret ingredient at all - even my mom didn't know what it was (until I let the cat out of the bag... d'oh! She still ate 1/2 the loaf though...). Go figure - it's not even Christmas (though More than Words is keeping track! 13 days? Eek!) and I'm already using the lucky New Year's food - black eyed peas - in my recipes! Who knows, maybe we'll all be in for a set of lucky stars this year?

The tradition of black eyed peas (they're actually a kind of lentil... I didn't know that!) as "lucky food" dates back to the U.S. Civil War, when Southern soldiers were able to live off of them during seiges from the North. Seen as animal fodder, they weren't deliberately destroyed and even prospered! When they're eaten with greens, the dish is symbolic of prosperity (from the swelling of the beans) and money (the green leaves).

Though this bread is devoid of greenity (unlike the last loaf I made!), it does have colour - I used yellow cornmeal in the dough which added a great texture and crunch as well as a rich "southern" flavour, and the touch of molasses-y dark brown sugar lent a bit of interest to the mix. I highly reccomend this as a school day sandwich bread or a breakfast side with some good jam! Check out YeastSpotting this week for the roundup of other good bready things!

Black-Eyed Bread
14 Slices
1/4 cup warm water
1 tbsp dry active yeast
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 cup boiling water
1 tbsp instant nonfat milk powder
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 cup cooked black-eyed peas, pureed
3 cups flour
  1. In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup warm water, yeast and sugar. Let stand 10 minutes, until foamy.
  2. Combine remaining water, milk powder, oil, salt and cornmeal. Let stand 10 minutes to cool slightly.
  3. Add the cornmeal mixture to the proofed yeast, followed by the bean puree. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Begin beating in the flour, one cup at a time. Dough will be very soft and slightly sticky, but do not add more flour! More flour = heavy brick bread... not yummy!
  5. Knead about 5 minutes by mixer or 10 minutes by hand on a lightly floured board.
  6. Place in greased bowl, turning to coat well with oil.
  7. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (about 1 1/2 hours).
  8. Punch down and place in a lightly greased pan. Cover and let rise 1 hour.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 168.5
Total Fat: 1.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.1 mg
Sodium: 8.2 mg
Total Carbs: 33.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.2 g
Protein: 4.4 g

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Winner, Winner...

Whole BUNCH of dinners! Yes, I kept it under wraps for months, but I took part in Yahoo Canada's Best Chef Contest a while back and was one of the lucky second-place winners! My gift package arrived this afternoon, bursting with 5 foodie books and $500 in HBC gift cards... I can't wait to start spending! I have my eye on a cookware set (I don't have one of my own as of now), but who knows what Boxing Day sales will bring me??

If you can't read the titles, these are the awesome books I recieved:

Love in the Time of Cholesterol (Cecily Ross)
Coffee Indulgences (Savannah Blake)
Sweet Stuff: Karen Barker's American Desserts (Karen Barker)
Moosewood Restaurant Cooks for a Crowd (The Moosewood Collective)
Low-Carb Meals in Minutes (Linda Gassenheimer)

I can't wait to start trying them out!! Thanks Yahoo and HBC!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Drumroll, Please!

I am feeling very accomplished today! For one, I just got my Nutrition marks back (93%... oh yes!) and I wrote a Math exam this afternoon that I had agonized over for most of the morning. Ladies and gentlemen of the blog-reading community, I officially hate metric/imperial conversions! Then, I finished the final stitches of the wool blanket I've been making my friend Heather for the past, oh, 6 months! Just because I'm feeling proud of myself, here's a gratuitous shot of the finished product:

Isn't it awesome?? I'm kind of jealous... I want one now! 13 more balls of yarn later...

Anyways, I also accomplished a culinary feat this weekend that I had been putting off for some time. Yes, I finally made the infamous macaron! It was an event about 8 months in the making for me, from when I first spotted this post on Tartlette. This was followed by me perusing articles all over the web, and even going so far as buying almond meal and a carton of egg whites before chickening out and stashing everything in the freezer.

But all things have come full cycle, for once I made the Christmas shortbreads with my mom and found myself with two extra egg whites about to go to waste (not to mention just having bought ground hazelnuts on a bulk-store whim), I had no more excuses. It was time for the creation to take place... and looking back though my photo montage of the project, it really is like watching a child grow up!

First - you agonize over how they'll age and behave when you aren't around...

But soon, they grow feet of their own and can make their own way!

Some of us do get too attached to each other, though...

While others of us just crack under pressure.

With luck and good planning, though, we all find a perfect match with our own sweetie!

...wasn't that a fun little tale?? Well, I thought so *sniff*. At any rate, I'm sending these as another entry to Susan's (AKA FoodBlogga) Eat Christmas Cookies Event... it'll probably be the last one for a little while at least, hopefully I'm not flooding her roundup like I did last year! I'm drooling over all the other entries, too... everyone is so creative! Thank you to all the bloggers before me who toyed with these cookies and documented their experiences - I couldn't have done it without you!

Filbert Macarons
Makes 12 sandwiches
63 grams ground hazelnuts
112 grams icing sugar
2 egg whites, room temperature
15 grams granulated sugar

  1. Push ground filberts through a sieve with icing sugar (Note: this takes FOREVER! Persevere, though, and you will be rewarded!). Set aside.
  2. Whip egg whites in a spotlessly clean, dry bowl on medium speed until foamy.
  3. Increase the speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar. Continue to whip to stiff peaks—the whites should be firm and shiny.
  4. Fold icing sugar mixture into egg whites until completely incorporated. When small peaks dissolve to a flat surface, stop mixing. (According to Serious Eats, the mixture should be shiny and 'flow like magma.')
  5. Pipe the batter through a plain, 1cm pastry tube onto parchment paper lined baking sheets into small circles.
  6. Let macarons sit out 1 hour (this allows skins to form for the "feet").
  7. Preheat oven to 325F.
  8. Bake macarons for 10 to 11 minutes, using a wooden spoon to keep the oven door slightly ajar.
  9. Transfer parchment sheet to a cooling rack.
  10. When cookies are completely cool, carefully remove them from the parchment and sandwich them with filling if desired.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 76.9
Total Fat: 3.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 9.3 mg
Total Carbs: 11.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.5 g
Protein: 1.5 g

Monday, December 8, 2008

This is SO Much Better Than School

I'm in-between exams right now, so I figured I would tell you all about the last batch of goodies that I made for the Winter CAFP bakesale (I made these and these, and some of these too!). The only problem with these is that I know I got them off of a website or blog somewhere, but whose - I don't know! The closest version to mine I can find is this one at FatFree Vegan. Oh well, wherever they came from, THANKS! Everyone who had a taste declared these the fudgiest, most delicious bites of chocolate they've had in a long time, and when I told them they were whole grain and low fat they sold by the (half) dozen! I should have made more, in retrospect, but they were such a sleeper hit that I never could have predicted it!

With Christmas and other assorted holiday parties coming nigh, I bet these would be a hit on the cookie platters alongside the rum balls and sugar cookies. I'm sending it as another entry to FoodBlogga's Eat Christmas Cookies - and you can find the whole shebang here. I don't know how Susan does it all... she's keeping a running tally and the whole foodie world seems to be involved!

Brownie - Oat Truffle Balls
Makes 12
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup quick oats (not instant)
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 egg replacer (like Ener-G brand), prepared
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 tbsp vanilla
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F, lightly grease or line baking sheets.
  2. Blend flour, oats, baking powder and salt well in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl, blend egg replacer, brown sugar, agave nectar and vanilla.
  4. Add wet ingredients to the dry, stirring only until moistened.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Bake 10 minutes.
  7. Cool 5 minutes on sheets, then remove to racks and cool completely.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 144.3
Total Fat: 4.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 72.0 mg
Total Carbs: 28.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.8 g
Protein: 3.1 g

Saturday, December 6, 2008

You Knew it Was Coming!

Come on, you just had to! It's not Christmas at my place without three things: Challah, Brioche and shortbread cookies! I'm re-posting this recipe (and do take a look at it for me notes re:butter) so I can send it (again) to FoodBlogga's Eat Christmas Cookies event - check out the currently running roundup and see what bloggers who are actually writing are up to! I promise as soon as exams are over I'll be back at this! I have goodies to show and tell!

Take note: I forgot to include in last year's write up that this recipe cannot be halved. Doubled, yes, but no more, and certainly not less!

Mom’s Shortbread Cookies
1 cup salted butter, softened
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 cups flour
  1. Cream butter, egg yolk, and vanilla.
  2. Sift icing sugar and flour into the creamed mixture.
  3. Mix to combine into a workable dough.
  4. Roll out and cut into shapes with cookie cutters.
  5. Place cookies onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  6. Decorate wias desired.
  7. Bake in a preheated 325F oven for 20 minutes. Cookies should not have much, if any, browning!
  8. Let cool completely on sheets.

Looking for the NI on this recipe? Well, you could check out the original posting, but really, if you're eating a double batch of these (that's a pound of butter, guys!) you can't really worry about your waistline.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


And now, the end is near, and so I face the final (exam) curtain...

Oh yay, exam time *rolls eyes*. If nothing else, I am b -o - r - e - d, not stressed... not to brag, but I do know my stuff this semester (really, I don't think I could be running this blog as long as I have been if I didn't know basic kitchen production, sanitation and nutrition principles!). I even got my final grades for my Psych exam last night (my prof [yeah, the awesome one!] is wicked fast at grading - I wrote the exam yesterday afternoon!). Now for the bragging... ta da! 92% on the exam for a final grade of 88.5% in the course. Needless to say, I'm going to try to get into his social psychology course next year. This coming from a girl who, in Grade 11, swore off psychology forever!!

In lieu of studying, I've been knitting my fingers off in between batches of Christmas cookies and muffins to finally try finishing my friend Heather's blanket. I have 4 rows left to go... 768 stitches... and I'm kind of sad! I remember it as a baby blankie, and now it's a wonderfully big, cozy wrap! I'll take a photo after it's completely done for the knitters out there reading this blog... you know who you are!

So anyways, non-course (but still school-ish) stuff... I made these as part of my donation to the fundraiser last week, but for the life of me I couldn't decide whether or not they were cookies or sweet breadsticks. The original recipe, over at Flagrante Delicia, simply labels them "snacks". I guess that's a good thing to call them, since they aren't too sweet, but they're a good supplement for a cup of coffee. My friend Johana liked them too, especially since they were an alternative to the sugar fest presented at our bake table. I want to make these again too, maybe with a mix of chickpea and whole wheat flours instead of the spelt and dark chocolate chips (like in the original recipe). Oooh, or maybe almond meal?? I have some hazelnut flour too, from a soon-to-be-blogged secret... there are endless possibilities!

Cinna - Raisin Snax
Makes 10
100g spelt flour
30g brown sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp Thompson raisins, soaked in hot water and drained
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400F, lightly grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
  2. Combine all ingredients into a firm dough, using your hands to knead if necessary.
  3. Form small, thin ropes, and place them in the baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn off the oven and cool 20 minutes inside.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 64.1
Total Fat: 1.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 0.9 mg
Total Carbs: 3.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.5 g
Protein: 0.1 g

Monday, December 1, 2008

Breakfast, Brunch, Bran!

Ah, the wonders of bran muffins... don't they just make you want to get up and GO?? Haha, anyways - all silliness aside, my standard bran muffin recipe is proving to be incredibly versatile these days! In fact, I've already posted a hit version of these moist, super low-fat, fibre-filled babies that I made in response to a popular fast-food place's product.

I decided to re-visit these muffins in a couple different forms when a friend of mine mentioned resorting to her office cafeteria's bran muffins for breakfast most weekdays because she would wake up too late for breakfast. Now, knowing what goes into the pre-packaged, commercial muffins (not even counting the preservatives!) and also what doesn't, I offered to make her a couple batches of my own nutrient-rich ones instead. She was sold when I mentioned that the cost for mine (even with my bakery mark-up) would be $8 for 24 of them, as opposed to her paying almost $26 for the same amount at work. As a major bonus, she gave me free reign as to the additions in the batter... cranberries, nuts, raisins, chocolate - anything that I could think of was fair game!

The first dozen muffins made use of some of my sourdough starter's toss-off for acidity, a scoop of home made jam I had in the fridge for moisture, and I tossed in a good handful of Craisins that I soaked in hot water before mixing in. The result was a pink-ribboned and studded cake that had a wonderfully light spice aroma to it and a good lift to the batter. It was an example of "God I hope the starter doesn't ruin these" experimentation, and it was a delicious success.

Very Berry Sour Bran Muffins
Makes 12 large muffins
2 cups 100% Bran cereal
1 cup (100% hydration) sourdough starter (can be "toss-off")
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup agave nectar
½ cup water
1/2 tsp cider vinegar
1 cup whole-wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg replacer, prepared
1/3 cup strawberry-rhubarb jam
1/3 cup Craisins
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Grease 12 muffin cups.
  2. In large mixing bowl, combine cereal, sourdough starter, sugar, nectar, water and vinegar. Let stand 5 minutes.
  3. Stir together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
  4. Add egg replacer and jam, to cereal mixture and beat well.
  5. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Bake 20 minutes, then cool 10 minutes in tins before turning out.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 174.0
Total Fat: 0.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 29.6 mg
Total Carbs: 42.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.6 g
Protein: 3.6 g

I was on a roll after making the cranberry muffins, and I knew exactly what I was going to do for the next ones. I didn't have enough sourdough starter left over though, so I rummaged through the fridge and found some orange juice that worked out just fine.

Orange - Apricot Raisin Bran Muffins
Makes 12
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp ginger
2 cups 100% Bran cereal
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup honey
1 egg
1/2 cup apricot jam
1/3 cup raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Grease 12 muffin cups.
  2. Stir together flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ginger.
  3. Set aside.In large mixing bowl, combine cereal, juice and honey. Let stand 5 minutes.
  4. Add egg and jam, beating well.
  5. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined.
  6. Add raisins and fold in gently.
  7. Bake 20 minutes, then cool 10 minutes in tins before turning out onto wire racks.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 189.2
Total Fat: 1.0 g
Cholesterol: 17.7 mg
Sodium: 72.2 mg
Total Carbs: 45.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.9 g
Protein: 4.4 g

So, I finished the order and sent it off to my customer, but I still had bran on the brain! I found a packet of Carnation Breakfast Anytime (a meal replacement powder) in my pantry this morning, and when I saw it was chocolate flavour I knew exactly who was going to get the newest batch of muffins I made! My mom never has time to slow down and actually eat something, especially on Tuesdays when my sister has riding lessons at the local stable and the two of them don't get home until almost 9PM. She's also a sucker for anything chocolate (aren't we all, ladies?) and she's constantly trying to cut down on all the fat in her diet (there isn't too much, really - but my stepdad sees the fact that olive oil is "healthy" as an excuse to douse everything in it... not exactly wait friendly!). These are huge, and therefore pretty high in sugar, but they also have a lot of fibre going for them and are still low in fat! This recipe will also make 12 regular muffins too (bake at 400F for 20 minutes), even though I made them Texas-size.

Mom's Morning Muffins
Makes 6 jumbo muffins
2 cups Post 100% Bran cereal
1 packet (40g) Carnation Breakfast Anytime, Chocolate flavour
1/4 cup Torani (or similar) vanilla-flavoured syrup (use sugar-free if you want)
1 cup hot water
1/4 cup skim milk
1 egg
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp butter flavouring (optional, I use Wilton brand)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Grease 6 jumbo muffin cups.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cereal, breakfast powder, syrup, water, and milk. Stir well and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Add in egg, applesauce and butter flavour if using, beating well.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together flours, powder, soda, and salt.
  5. Stir flour gently into the bran mixture until just combined, fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until they test done.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 320.8
Total Fat: 6.7 g
Cholesterol: 36.7 mg
Sodium: 166.5 mg
Total Carbs: 64.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 12.0 g
Protein: 10.7 g