Friday, July 30, 2010

Two Kinds of Crunchy

I've come to the conclusion that, at a bakesale, there are two very distinct and very stubborn types of people present in any given sampling of people. There are the brownie and cake people, and there are the cookie people. I suppose if you want you can throw in the "tart" people too, but they generally will defer to one side or the other when forced to choose. Then of course, those two groups are subdivided further, forming those that like "crunchy things" in their treats and those who, like my sister and I, prefer their sweet noshings au naturel.

I used to think most people fell into my own camp - the cakey-pure-preferably chocolate group - but apparently I was quite mistaken! Especially when it came to pleasing my classmates, With few exceptions, I would get requests for "a banana cake, or something, with nuts", or a crispy cookie-like treat, over the most delicious plain brownies I could churn out. Even crunchy oatmeal-raisin-walnut cookies even went quickly, which is odd to a girl whose oatmeal cookies better be chewy and packed with chocolate chips and plump raisins. Dry raisins? Deal killer.

My mom's office is a little more "forgiving" in their clientele's palates, luckily. I know that generally, as long as it's not pie (apparently they are not pie people!) I can tote or send in anything with a decent dose of sugar and it will be decimated by the next morning. Like me, anything with chocolate is a bonus too, but they're equally happy with something new and potentially untried that appears in the break room. Apparently, they like being guinea pigs taste testers!

Well, fine then, I figured - let's test out the crunchy factor with both camps of people: cake and cookie! I had a small box of both Kashi's "honey almond flax" and "toasted berry crisp" granolas in my pantry, left over from the Food Show back in March (and no it wasn't 4 months old - these recipes were actually made in late April! Can you tell I'm a bit behind?), and it was mighty crunchy! I also had some shredded carrots taking up space in my freezer from last year's harvest, and with no requests for carrot cake in sight I figured I should probably find a way to use it too!

Since carrot cake always seems to have something crunchy in it - usually nuts of some kind or another - I figured that an almond cereal would fit right in! Looking for something "unique" to use everything in, I stumbled onto a RecipeZaar recipe for something called "Indian Carrot Bread" which was unlike any recipe I had ever seen before! This one had cooked carrot shreds and cornmeal in it to add texture and flavour, and though there weren't any nuts or crunch factors at all, I figured I'd chuck in some cereal and go with it!More modifications ensued, with more carrots and a good glug of almond milk instead of plain. The resulting  (and surprisingly low-fat) concoction was very much a cake - I would never have termed it a "bread" even though it's baked in a loaf pan - and was so insanely moist that I almost destroyed it when I turned it out onto it's cooling rack. I would say fork-eating this is essential, though frosting isn't - extra plus!

Crunchy "Indian" Carrot Loaf Cake
Serves 12
3 cups grated carrots
3/4 cup water
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup fine cornmeal
1 1/3 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup Kashi Honey Almond Flax granola (or your favourite granola)
  1. Preheat oven to 325F, grease a loaf pan.
  2. In a saucepan, combine carrots and water.
  3. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes - until the liquid has almost evaporated completely and carrots are falling apart.
  4. Reduce heat to low and mix in the honey, brown sugar, cornmeal and milk.
  5. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
  6. Stir in the flours, baking soda and baking powder, then fold in the granola.
  7. Place on the bottom rack of the oven and bake 1 hour 25 minutes - 1 1/2 hours, until a tester yields moist crumbs but not batter.
  8. Cool in the pan 15 minutes before gently unmoulding.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 140.0
Total Fat: 1.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 51.1 mg
Total Carbs: 30.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.9 g
Protein: 3.6 g

For the cookie camp, I wound up defaulting to my mom's tried-and-true "crunchy" oatmeal cookie as a base recipe. Apparently she has a "chewy" version stashed somewhere too, but in all my searching I have been unable to find a trace of it... I'm starting to think it's a fable. At any rate, I halved the recipe, using the berry granola instead of the oats and Demerara sugar instead of her standard "golden". Still fresh off my nutrition-school high, I also added some currants, protein packed, dry-toasted soy "nuts" and a bit of textured vegetable protein crumbles.

Why? Well, honestly, I just wanted to see if they worked in a cookie application! Not adding any flavour of their own, they easily paired with the granola as a kind of "cereal", even toasting crispy in the oven while keeping the centre of the cookies from becoming rock hard. Since the nutrition profile of TVP was pretty rosy vitamin, iron, fibre and protein-wise (being formed out of de-fatted soy flour, after all) I would definitely try a half and half ratio with oats in "breakfast" cookies or power bars too (huh, would you look at that... I did that already!)! In fact, I know it's a great addition to oats for breakfast as well - the blandness really helps carry other flavours, and when you're battling with nausea or just not being hungry it's a great "sneak-in" - even when you know it's there!

So that was your nutritionist talking... now the baker in me takes over. Eat cookies, be happy, try new things, never apologize. Especially when the results disappear in a flash!

Crunchy Kashi Cookies
Makes 18
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup Demerara sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice (a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves)
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup Kashi Toasted Berry Crisp (or granola)
1/4 cup TVP granules, dry
1 1/2 cups currants, soaked in hot water and drained
1/2 cup toasted soynuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease two cookie sheets.
  2. In a large bowl cream shortening and sugars.
  3. Add egg and vanilla, beating well.
  4. Add flour, baking soda, pie spice and salt, stir in until just blended.
  5. Fold in the cereal, TVP, currants and soynuts.
  6. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely on sheets.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 189.7
Total Fat: 7.3 g
Cholesterol: 11.8 mg
Sodium: 14.8 mg
Total Carbs: 27.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.0 g
Protein: 4.1 g

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lasagne Day

My mom and I used to make lasagne for our family once every few months. It was a kind of ritual for us - from fighting to keep most of the noodles intact from box to pot to strainer to pan, to mom's occasional half-hearted swats at me as I'd sneak pieces of pasta out of the colander or shreds of cheese out from under the grater, to finally the breathless awe of the family when my mom finally pulled out the Pyrex dish from the oven and cut that first, cheesy piece. Even though I was a part of the process of making the dish, for the longest time, I never truly understood what lasagne was, in essence. Because it's more than just a melange of pasta, sauce and cheese that makes the meal... it's the melange of love, learning, teaching, laughter and patience too. A lasagne put together by a cook or a family that loves the end recipient always has that "little bit more" to it than even the fanciest truffle and foie gras stuffed concoction - it sounds corny but the feelings of the cook season the dish more than salt ever will.

So today, being National Lasagne Day, I'm sharing with you a recipe by one of the most dedicated family men I have the privilege of knowing: Darryl Koster of Buster Rhino's BBQ. His recipe is unique in it's short list of ingredients (including his secret Southern brisket!), yet it's unusual components perfectly mesh into a delicious, rich, cheesy whole. If you're fortunate enough to live near an area that carries his sauce (or even better, his establishment's meat!) you definitely should check it out!

Do you have a favourite family recipe you enjoy cooking with each other, or for each other?

Buster's BBQ Lasagne
Serves 10
1 tbsp olive oil
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
6 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup red wine
1lb cooked, Southern BBQ Beef Brisket, chopped
6 cups spaghetti sauce (Darryl uses homemade, for NI purposes I used Prego traditional)
12 oz fresh Mozzarella, shredded
1 cup grated Romano cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 lb lasagne noodles, cooked just shy of al dente and drained
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Heat oil in a medium sized pan.
  3. Add onion and cook, stirring, until translucent.
  4. Add mushrooms and pepper, continue cooking until the onions are caramelized.
  5. Stir in red wine to deglaze the pan and set aside.
  6. Coat the bottom of a 9 x 13" dish with sauce.
  7. Layer noodles, sauce, vegetables, brisket, mozzarella cheese and Romano cheese until everything has been used.
  8. The top of the lasagne should be 1 layer of noodles, a thin layer of sauce, and all the Parmesan cheese.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes or until a nice brown crust has formed on the top, rotating the pan 1/2 way through the baking time.
  10. Let rest 10 minutes before cutting.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 673.9
Total Fat: 27.7 g
Cholesterol: 97.6 mg
Sodium: 1,627.0 mg
Total Carbs: 62.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 6.1 g
Protein: 39.0 g

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's 5 o'clock Somewhere

Sometimes I find that I have stuff in my pantry that I never remember buying, nor would I ever have and intended use for. Usually, it's stuff that won't necessarily go bad, or will store in the freezer until some moment of brilliance occurs and suddenly it all makes sense. But there's only so much freezer space that I'm allotted, and quite frankly, I've hit the limit. I'm a definite hoarder. But as they say, acknowledging you have the problem is step one to recovery, right? How perfect that my stashing habit's "therapy" involves baking - and lots of it!

One of the goodies I found when I was cleaning out my pantry and consolidating as much as I could in it was this jar of Sable & Rosenfeld's "Tipsy" chocolate sauce. I can only think that it was probably one of the items in a corporate gift basket my stepfather recieved at some function or Christmas get-together, since aside from downtown Toronto I've never seen the brand anywhere, and I certainly can't partake in a tasting due to my alcohol intolerance! However I wound up with the jar, I had it, and even though there was no marked expiry date I was fairly sure "indefinite" was not applicable. Even with the addition of booze in the mixture, I wanted to kill it before it had the potential to do any killing of it's own - and judging by the alcohol shelf-life guide it was probably best that way.

So, I had my "star ingredient". And, judging by the fact that I had a lunch date on the horizon, I even had some eaters lined up! Now all I needed was a recipe... or at least a theory. Something to jump off of!

Enter the notion of the "crazy cake". It's not a new idea by any stretch of the imagination - it's a go-to vegan cake in it's purest form, and eggless in any incarnation, using vinegar and baking soda to tenderize and leaven like an egg would. Usually water or milk is the preferred "liquid" in the mixture, though I know for chocolate recipes I love using coffee instead! Why couldn't the same basic formula be used to use up the sauce? It was fairly liquid, definitely chocolatey, and would add a whole world of richness due to both the cocoa and cappuccino elements it had. Plus, as a crazy cake, I wouldn't be bound to making a frosting - which I have to admit I abhor.

So I did it, adding a touch of extra milk to make up for the remaining liquid needed in the recipe, using balsamic vinegar instead of regular white, and using both butter and brown sugar for flavour. As it baked, I wondered if I had made a mistake... it smelled incredibly alcoholic, and coffee-like - not a bad thing necessarily, but the smell (at least to me) was a bit much. Thankfully the aroma did dissipate after a while, and the flavour of coffee did nothing but create a mocha nuance that the recipients at my mom's office adored! I'm thinking that if you can't find, or didn't want to buy, the particular kind of sauce I used, a jar of thick hot fudge sauce (not the kind in the bottles, though) with a few shots of Kahlua in it would suffice. Or you can always make your own sauce and add the booze... if you really wanted to make the cake!

"Tipsy" Double Chocolate Cake
Serves 12
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp vanilla
280 ml (1 cup + 3 tbsp) Sable & Rosenfeld Tipsy Chocolate & Cappuccino Liqueur Sauce (1 jar)
1/3 cup milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 330F. Grease a 9" pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add vinegar and vanilla, beating well.
  4. Add half the dry mixture to the bowl, blending well, then add the chocolate sauce and milk and beat in.
  5. Add the remaining dry mixture and mix well.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes. Cool completely in the pan before turning out.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 208.9
Total Fat: 5.9 g
Cholesterol: 10.7 mg
Sodium: 64.9 mg
Total Carbs: 39.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.7 g
Protein: 3.9 g

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Sweetness of Corn

Summer can be a fickle thing for us gardeners. On one hand, it's full of days with humid temperatures in the high 30's where the thought of going out into the sun is more anathema than bliss. On the other, there are unbearable periods of nothing but cold, dreary rain that turn fields to mud and prevent any sort of weeding, harvesting or pruning. There are precious few days that are perfect for growing are pounced on, allowing us to get some good, honest dirt under our nails and produce fresh, delicious goodies in our own backyard.

Even when the sun is scorching, beating down on us gardeners and farmers, there is the comfort in knowing that all the heat is working to enhance the sweetness of those tomatoes, bringing those beans to bear and - possibly one of the best gifts of Summer sun - caramelizing the kernels of corn growing in the local fields. There's nothing sweeter (literally) than biting into a fresh cob of locally grown and harvested corn - if you're lucky a super-delicious variety like 'Honey & Cream', 'Lancelot' or (my personal favourite) 'Silver Queen'. Good, fresh corn will get even the sweatiest cooks into the kitchen, boiling water for their score, and even though snacking on an ice cream cone would be a more logical idea I can't say I'm alone in craving a hot, roasted ear when I'm at the CNE at the end of August.

And as if the fresh sugary kernels weren't awesome enough on their own - or perhaps if in a moment of desperation you turn to frozen, canned or *gasp* out of season grocery store fare, there is always cake.

Yes, corn cake, not bread. There is nothing bready about this tasty, buttermilk and vanilla round, except perhaps the single cup of all-purpose flour to bind the works together. The last dregs of a bag of frozen corn discovered in our basement's chest freezer - admittedly not the tastiest kernels of the year, but passable, formed one leg of a corn "tripod", bolstered on either side by cornmeal and corn oil. Semolina flour - the addition that first drew me to Jude's recipe on Apple Pie, Patis & Pate - brings a new texture to the fold as well, and adds a brilliant yellow colour! The result is nicely sweet without being - pardon the expression - candy-corn like, and a unique offering on the dessert table at a BBQ or served with fresh berries and whipped cream to crown off a delicious Summer meal.

But you will have to sacrifice some corn for this. So pick some that you don't particularly adore straight off the cob, dust off the can opener or peer into your freezer's depths. You might be surprised!

Semolina Corn Cake
Serves 14
1 cup fine-ground cornmeal
1 cup + 3 tbsp buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
6 tbsp corn oil
3/4 cup semolina flour
1 cup flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup corn
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F, grease a 9" springform pan.
  2. In a large, microwave-safe bowl, combine cornmeal and buttermilk, stirring.
  3. Microwave on HI for 30 seconds, stir and allow to sit 10 minutes. Stir in vanilla, eggs and oil.
  4. In another bowl combine semolina flour, regular flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Stir into the cornmeal mixture until just blended, then fold in the corn.
  5. Bake 35 minutes, until tests done.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 208.2
Total Fat: 7.6 g
Cholesterol: 31.2 mg
Sodium: 35.8 mg
Total Carbs: 30.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.5 g
Protein: 4.9 g

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Medieval Maslin

Have you had your maslin yet today?

Sounds like a kind of fabric, I know - but apparently rye bread, at least how I'm used to eating it, is not technically "rye bread". It is maslin bread. True rye loaves, as well they should be given their name, are supposed to be made of all rye flour or rye meal, leavened exclusively with sourdough and, as you might expect, form a dense, dark (almost black) brick of a loaf perfect for topping with creamy cheese and marmalade. True rye was the bread of the "peasants", helped along by the grain's capability to grow in even peat bogs and the bread's extraordinary shelf life - so while everyone would technically have a loaf for their table, those with the dark, everlasting loaves knew their place as the proverbial "bottom crust". The rich, hoity-toity class got to munch on slices of manchet - essentially today's "French bread" that was as pale as their powdered faces.

But what of the tiny pool of citizens in the Medieval "middle class", then? Well, they certainly weren't about to be allowed in line at the boulangerie for a manchet loaf by the aristocracy. As you can imagine, though, subjecting themselves to the lowly coarse grained ryes. So, unable to afford large amounts of white flour, and unwilling to sup the same as the plebians, the "mid-range" merchants mixed the two, sometimes with other flours such as barley, and formed maslin bread. A few other seeds and spices wove their way into the recipe as money and availability of those ingredients grew, and the lighter colour and texture of the bread became recognized as the "better" rye bread. Different incarnations of maslin began winding up in more sandwich shops and delis as the rye (and general grain bread) trend grew, wrapping around pastrami and encompassing all colours from almost white to nutty brown to swirls of both.

So now, maslin is what you will generally be buying when you shop for "rye bread" - most are still sourdough or at least sponge-leavened to compensate for rye's somewhat complicated habit of breaking down gluten long after wheat's enzymes have died off.  Flavour-wise, you'll usually find caraway seeds lacing the loaves, unless the label specifies it's unseeded. Fennel seeds might make an appearance too, as will molasses (or caramel colour), cocoa powder and/or coffee to make the lighter crumb of the partial rye nice and dark... hinting at the wholesome roots of the true rye without providing the same concentration of fibre and it's accompanying density.  

So when I set about to make my maslin loaf for my mom's weekly nosh, I broke out the whole nine yards - plus some. A good dose of dark rye flour and a rye-based sourdough kicked off the flavour profile, which I built on with both fennel and caraway seed, before adding a bit of crunch from poppy seeds and nutrition from wheat germ, flaxseed and cooked, toasted buckwheat (AKA kasha). Ground espresso beans and a touch of cocoa powder helped out the colour, as did a bittersweet dose of molasses and a rich buckwheat honey. Not really trusting the strength of my starter,  The resulting loaf rose well but stayed moist and slightly dense, slicing beautifully and apparently forming a delicious bed for butter and honey. You'll have to let me know what you think, and check out the rest of the submissions to Susan's Yeastspotting event on Friday.

Maslin Rye Bread
Makes 1 loaf, 16 slices
1 tsp instant yeast
1 2/3 cups rye flour
1 cup whole wheat bread flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
2 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tbsp vital wheat gluten
1 tbsp fennel seed
1 tbsp caraway seed
1/2 tsp espresso-grind coffee
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 vitamin C tablet, finely ground
1 cup active sourdough starter
1/4 cup warm water
1/3 cup warm milk
2 tbsp buckwheat honey
1/4 cup molasses
1 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup kasha (toasted buckwheat), cooked
1/2 tsp salt
  1. In a large bowl, combine yeast, flours, wheat germ, flaxseed, poppy seeds, gluten, fennel seed, caraway seed, coffee, cocoa powder and vitamin C powder, whisking well.
  2. In a large jug or bowl, whisk together sourdough starter, water, milk, honey and molasses.
  3. Add to the dry ingredients, begin mixing on low speed (if using a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook).
  4. After 4 minutes, add butter, kasha and salt.
  5. Continue mixing for 15 minutes, until supple.
  6. Place into a greased bowl, cover and allow to rest 40 minutes.
  7. Deflate dough and knead 1 minute.
  8. Re-cover and allow to rest 40 minutes.
  9. Deflate dough, shape into a loaf and place into a greased loaf pan.
  10. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
  11. Preheat oven to 375F.
  12. Bake loaf 20 minutes, then cover top with foil and bake a further 20 minutes.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 148.8
Total Fat: 2.9 g
Cholesterol: 2.3 mg
Sodium: 10.8 mg
Total Carbs: 27.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 6.2 g
Protein: 5.8 g 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How "Flookie"

Imagine, if you will... rich, French vanilla ice cream floating in a tall, frosty glass of root beer - but in solid form. No, it's not the Twilight Zone, nor is it some sort of astronaut ice cream invention. Rather, it is a sweet icebox sugar cookie that I have dubbed the "root beer flookie". Again, it's one of the many products that come from my occasional attempts to organize my pantry. I also wanted to bake something as a "welcome home" gift for my RMT, who just so happens to be a foodie in his own right! More than anything though, I think these cookies were the spawn of my hyperactive imagination and boredom one day... but if I can find people to pawn the goods off onto, I'll take that excuse too!

To get the rich flavour of the "root beer" part of the swirl (and what  made my RMT go "what is that flavour??"), I used a full bottle of LorAnn's Root Beer Flavouring (the 1-dram size). Don't be fooled by the tiny bottle though - that stuff is strong, and more than capable enough of doing the job for the entire cookie batch. Colouring was just a simple addition of cocoa powder, though I suppose if you had brown food colouring you could use that too! The French vanilla side of things was taken care of with one of my favourite cookie-making secrets - vanilla custard powder - and a nice shot of double-strength vanilla extract. Now, I know when the cookie purists out there read the ingredient list you are going to pooh-pooh the idea of using mostly shortening in the dough... well, the thing is, I have never had a whole lot of success with all-butter sugar cookies, since they spread way too much for my liking, and this ratio of shortening to butter seems to give both the best flavour and the best texture as far as the end product is concerned. I'm sure you can use all butter in these, just like how you could use all white flour instead of the blend of white and white whole wheat that I did.

Root Beer "Flookies"
Makes about 45
¾ cup sugar
pinch salt
2/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 egg white
2 1/4 cups flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/8 tsp baking powder
¼ cup skim milk
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp LorAnn's root beer flavouring
1/2 tbsp water
1 tbsp vanilla custard powder (you can substitute an equal measure of cook-and-serve vanilla pudding)
1 tbsp pure double-strength vanilla extract

  1. Cream together sugar, salt, shortening and butter until fluffy.
  2. Add egg white, beat well.
  3. Combine flours and baking powder, and gently mix in alternately with the milk to form a smooth mixture.
  4. Divide dough in half.
  5. Add cocoa powder, root beer flavouring and water to one half of the dough, mixing well.
  6. To the other portion of dough, stir in custard powder and vanilla.
  7. Wrap doughs individually in plastic and chill 1 hour.
  8. Between sheets of parchment or waxed paper, roll out one of the doughs into a very thin, roughly rectangular layer.
  9. Separately, between more sheets of parchment or waxed paper, roll out the other portion in a similar fashion.
  10. Flip one dough portion on top of the other and trim the edges so the dough is a smooth rectangle.
  11. Beginning from one of the long edges, roll dough up into a log.
  12. Re-wrap in plastic and place in the freezer for 1 hour, until very firm (almost frozen).
  13. Preheat oven to 400F.
  14. Working quickly with a very sharp (or serrated) knife, cut discs of dough about a pencil-width thick and place cookies on a parchment or silicone-lined sheet (don't grease the sheet, though, it doesn't seem to work... and they don't spread too much so about 1/2" of space is fine).
  15. Replace excess dough in the freezer while the first batch bakes - you must bake these one sheet at a time.
  16. Bake 10 minutes on the lowest rack of the oven. Move parchment or silicone sheets to a rack to cool and bake subsequent sheets the same way.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 97.3
Total Fat: 4.6 g
Cholesterol: 5.3 mg
Sodium: 12.0 mg
Total Carbs: 12.6 g 
Dietary Fiber: 0.9 g
Protein: 1.7 g

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Fudge Brownie Bastardization

Or rather the bastardization of one of the ingredients, if you want to believe David's nonsense opinions (just kidding... hugs, D!). Apparently the avocado-banana toffee cake I made a few days ago caused quite a stir over at Hobbits, Home and Abroad! But gosh-darn it, it worked. Verified by the *holder* of the Visa card - A.K.A. mommy dearest. And I still had two avocadoes left in my fridge, begging to be used, as well as a bar of imported chocolate yumminess from Italy and a bottle of tart cherry concentrate I recieved as a prize from Michelle's Miracle via The Foodie Blogroll (along with some dried cherries). So while I'm sorry to disappoint you, David (actually, I detest the scaly-skinned fruit, so I don't feel too bad), but yes - it is another dessert with the alligator pear. And chocolate. And cherries.

If you subscribe to the same line of thinking though - that avocadoes should not be tampered with beyond the ubiquitous guacamole, I have a bit of a band-aid for your pain. There is some booze in it too... and really, how could you not love low(er) fat, boozy, chocolate fudge goodness? Even if it is the product of senseless avocado destruction?

So, truce?

I'm fairly certain I had something else to say about these, but in all honesty I can't think of what that was. Except that if you like fudgy, no-holds-barred brownies, make these. And the frosting. Seriously. Just don't expect to want to share much, and I dare you not to want to lick the frosting spatula when you're done.

Hass - ta la Vista Brownies
Adapted from Janet Hudson (brownie) and Tasha the Voracious Vegan (frosting)
Makes 16 rich squares

1 Hass avocado
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3.5 oz bittersweet chocolate (100g), melted
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup tart cherry concentrate
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp dried cherries, soaked in Kirsch or hot water and drained

1 Hass avocado
1 tbsp agave nectar
2 tbsp powdered sugar
3 tbsp cocoa
1 tbsp coconut milk
2 tbsp shredded coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, line and grease grease a 9" square pan.
  2. In a large bowl beat together avocado pulp, salt, brown sugar, vanilla and vinegar.
  3. Stir in melted chocolate until well combined.
  4. Add flours and cocoa powder, stirring gently, then add coconut milk, cherry concentrate and water and mix well.
  5. Fold in dried cherries.
  6. Bake 20 minutes.
  7. Cool completely in the pan, then chill overnight before frosting.
  1. For frosting, combine avocado, agave, sugar, cocoa and coconut milk in a food processor and whip until smooth.
  2. Spread on chilled brownies and sprinkle with coconut.
  3. Chill completely before cutting.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 162.4
Total Fat: 8.3 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 13.8 mg
Total Carbs: 25.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.4 g
Protein: 2.1 g

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fixing Today

Honestly, I should have known. I should have foreseen just how today was going to go, how many instances of bad luck and general craptasticness (yes, craptasticness) could occur in a 6 hour window. When the first bit of dread hit this morning after I realized I had been driving my mom's car for 10 minutes with the emergency brake on, I could have cut bait, gone home and gone back to bed. But I didn't. Ohh, no. That would have been too easy.

Instead I went about my morning, innocently forgetting about that early blip. It could happen to anyone, I told myself, it's no big deal, and the car's fine. No one has to know. But as I was consoling myself over that, I was also merging onto the highway. My poor judgement and depth-perception on that on ramp meant I began merging into a lane where there was an SUV humming along in my blind spot. I realized as I was moving over and so avoided any contact, but my nerves were rattled and my heart was racing - not helped by the fact that the other driver seemed to lean on his horn with enough force to push his steering wheel through the windshield. As if things couldn't get any better along that stretch of road, the same driver pulled up alongside me while his passenger whipped out her cell phone and began taking pictures of me and my license plate! I spent the rest of the drive, and the majority of the day, in an anxious fog peppered with panic attacks, my mind racing as to what they would do with those pictures. Would they call the cops? Could they charge me? What would my fine be? And how the Hell would I explain it to my mom if I got called into traffic court?

My sister told me to calm down. So did my confidants on Facebook and Twitter. But I couldn't. I hate the overbearing feeling of the unknown, especially where the law (and potentially money) is concerned. Once I got home my bad mood continued thanks to a myriad of complications on a reservation site I was using to book a night in Niagara on the Lake. I was fed up with the day. I needed something... anything... concrete that would prove to me that I wasn't a complete failure at life today, and that the bad moments were, in fact, moments. I needed to do what I knew how to do. I needed to bake.

I started off by prepping a simple sweet dough tart shell and baking off a thin sponge cake in anticipation of assembling a fruit flan for one of my mom's co-workers later this week. With both applications done without major complications, and my self-confidence gaining a little stronger footing, I turned to another "pet project" I had wanted to try... chocolate avocado cake. I was able to pick up three super, almost to the point of too-overripe avocados at the Asian grocery store today as part of a "quick sell" bag, and having had Joy the Baker's recipe saved for ages I finally had an excuse to try it out.

Looking at the recipe anew, though, I realized that it made more cake than I would easily be able to part with... and since I had no intention of making the frosting (which I'm sure is delicious, but I suck at frosting manufacturing and I wasn't about to push my luck that far today) I knew some bastardization modification was in order. I cut the original measurement of flour to two-thirds of what it started with, halved the sugar and used a banana that was beginning to lure an alarming amount of fruit flies in place of the 1/4 cup of oil. As I dug into the depths of my cupboard for my cocoa powder, I also came across my stash of wheat germ, so in went some of that too, as well as some toffee pieces that were languishing with the vanilla (I don't attempt to rationalize my pantry organization). To bump up the flavour of the chocolate I tossed in the dregs of that morning's vanilla-hazelnut coffee too. I poured the batter into a loaf pan, wondering for a moment if maybe it was just a bit too full, but barged ahead anyway and popped it into the oven, setting the timer for roughly what I baked my banana breads for.

Lo and behold, the mischief making gods were at it again - as I was cleaning up (this will sound familiar...) and typing the re-worked recipe into the nutritional calculator, I came across my note for 1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (Joy's calls for white, but I dont actually have any). Vinegar. Um, why don't I see that on the counter? Right... because I never took it out. So I never put it in. Damn. Well, it was too late, so there was nothing left to do but cross my fingers, wait the hour and hope for the best.

In the end, chocolate was the one thing today that didn't let me down. Even with all the snags and snarls the rest of the day, there was comfort wrapped up in a blanket of dark cocoa, velvety fruit and golden, melting toffee. Did it look like the cover of a Gourmet magazine? Was it going to be the next Food Network star? Well, probably not. But you know what it was? The best cheap substitute for Valium ever.

Choco-Cado Cake with Toffee
Makes 1 loaf, 12 slices
1 cup flour
1 cup barley flour
1/3 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 small, over-ripe banana, mashed
1/2 cup soft avocado, well mashed, about 1 medium avocado
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup water
1/3 cup strong brewed coffee
1/2 cup toffee bits, divided

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease a loaf pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, wheat germ, cocoa, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl beat together sugar, banana and avocado. Add vanilla and beat well.
  4. Add half the dry mixture, followed by the water and coffee, then stir in the remaining dry ingredients and 1/3 cup of the toffee bits, blending gently but thoroughly.
  5. Scrape into the prepared pan and top with remaining toffee pieces.
  6. Bake for 55 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 231.9
Total Fat: 5.9 g
Cholesterol: 6.7 mg
Sodium: 43.2 mg
Total Carbs: 42.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.1 g
Protein: 3.5 g

Friday, July 16, 2010

Blueberry Blogging

I can't believe that I've gotten to the middle of July without making a single Summer fruit pie yet. It's quite shameful, but I guess I'll chalk it up to the fact that I've spent my berry-baking days this year trying out a ton of new and unique recipes that I had found after buying tons of the local fruit at the market. Pie can be so, well, mundane... crust, filling, crust, voila. Not much variation on that front. But bars, cakes, bread, and banana loaves?... those can be messed with. And I did!

So when I finally got down to the business of "pie", I still had a large bag of perfectly delicious blueberries sitting in my freezer that I had been dipping into for periodic smoothies and general brain-freeze inducing snacks. The only reason that I was originally hoarding them, though, was so I could try my hand at making my very first blueberry pie! I know... how could I have been baking for over 15 years and never made a simple, blueberry pie? Well, I think it has something to do with the ridiculous ideals I set myself surrounding the end product. Even though I am not really a fan of blueberry pie (I'd eat it, but if there was cherry or apple there too they'd be my first picks), I had memories of the kind of pastry that I can only really describe as "diner pie". It was the type of dessert where the filling was cohesive, but not like balls in purple Jell-O, and not spilling out in a juice-puddle and leaving diners with an empty crust. Getting that balance with berry pies is always so tricky to me! After what felt like eons of Googling and cross-referencing millions of recipes, I settled on a blend that seemed to give me more or less what I was looking for. Along the way (on Baking 911) I found something interesting, too (which is probably the culprit of runny-pie syndrome): blueberry skins have something called oxalic acid in them. While I've only known it as a causer of kidney stones and other un-fun side effects, it also attacks starch in it's raw form. Meaning that thickeners like the traditional cornstarch common in pie will be rendered more or less useless.

Okay, so cook the berries we must. But I really didn't want something like blueberry paste in a pie crust. I opted to cook some of them, though, just enough to give me something to add my sugar and thickeners to (I used a blend of cornstarch and tapioca flour). To accent the perfect blueberry flavour, I finally got to break out a combination of citrus that I had been dying to try: orange and lime! Instead of water in the starch slurry, I reamed an orange and mixed it with the starches, and I also stirred in the zest of both fruits. In the crust as well I wanted a little touch of tangy citrus going on, so I used the rest of the orange juice as the liquid and a little of the rinds made their way into the dough too!

The pie baked like a dream - no boil-over, no runny filling, and a perfect amount of whole berries to squish deliciously with every bite. Even my lattice crust looked great, if I do say so myself!

Amusingly enough, two days after I made this pie (and saw it demolished) I received a little bit of info from a B.C. Blueberry birdie about a contest they're running this Summer for food bloggers! For cash even!! If you're a Canadian food blogger pop on over to their site and check it out between now and August 15 and  join my pie in the fray!

Blueberry-Citrus Pie
Makes 1 pie, 10 servings
3/4 cups flour, plus extra for rolling
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp lime zest
1/2 cup Earth Balance "Buttery Sticks", cold and cubed
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
3 tbsp cold, fresh orange juice
2 tbsp cold, fresh lime juice
4 cups blueberries
1 tbsp water
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp tapioca flour (not granules)
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 tsp grated lime zest
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp cold water
  1. In a large bowl combine flours and zests, whisking well.
  2. Cut in the Earth Balance and shortening until a coarse-meal texture forms.
  3. Add orange and lime juices and gently mix to form a flaky pastry dough.
  4. Divide into two portions - one 1/3 of the mixture, the other 2/3 of the dough.
  5. Wrap dough pieces in cling wrap and chill 30 minutes.
  6. Roll out the larger portion of dough, fit it into a 9" pie plate and set into the refrigerator while preparing filling.
  7. Preheat the oven to 400F and place the oven rack in the lowest position.
  8. Combine 1 cup of blueberries, water and the sugar in a small pot and place over medium heat.
  9. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is melted - 5 minutes.
  10. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch, tapioca flour and orange juice.
  11. Stir starch mixture into the cooking berries and cook gently until the mixture thickens and turns clear.
  12. Remove from heat and stir in the zests and nutmeg, then fold in remaining berries and pour into the pie shell.
  13. Roll out remaining pastry and cut strips from it.
  14. Brush edges of dough with the cornstarch mixture.
  15. Weave a lattice pattern with the pastry strips on top of the mixture and brush with remaining cornstarch mixture.
  16. Place pie on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Reduce temperature to 375F.
  17. Bake 40-45 minutes. Cool completely (minimum 12 hours) before cutting.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 319.0
Total Fat: 15.9 g
Cholesterol: 3.8 mg
Sodium: 100.7 mg
Total Carbs: 41.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.0 g
Protein: 3.0 g

Thursday, July 15, 2010

By Popular Demand

Sometimes baking with favourite ingredients can breed dangerous things... especially when you make it public that those ingredients include peanut butter, honey, bananas and chocolate! But when I saw that very notion on Delightful Bitefuls the other day, I just had to do it! So that's exactly what went into these goodies, along with a handful of oatmeal and wheat germ that I tossed in to counteract the moisture from the roasted bananas. I had already taken the measure of "draining" the bananas of their liquid post-roasting before adding them in, but wasn't sure the batter was "tight" enough to give me the kind of "traditional" peanut butter cookie I was looking for. The extra ingredients had an added bonus, too - giving me enough dough to encapsulate boatloads of chocolatey goodness!

Since I can't leave a recipe with "just" chocolate chips well enough alone, especially with a bagful of mini peanut-butter cups hanging around, I had to play! I quartered a handful of them and stuck them into the freezer with some pure semisweets so that they wouldn't just "mush" when I folded them in. Eventually I got every little bit of decadence crammed into the dough and stashed it in the fridge while I fired up the oven (yeah, that whole "forethought" thing? Not happening). Although, as with most oatmeal cookie doughs I've worked with, the texture of this one improves as it chills and rests, allowing the oats to sop up the moisture and melt into the dough a bit more. Chilling this dough with the peanut butter cups also re-solidified them - probably an unnecessary measure in the winter months, but when it's 35C outside those things were melting as fast as I could unwrap them!

As the dough chilled, the oven heated and I was cleaning up, I realized that I hadn't added any salt to the batter - probably due in part to my thinking that the peanut butter was salted already, but when I was scratching out the ingredients I also hadn't accounted for the extra chocolate in the mix. I didn't really want to re-work the dough, so instead I went slightly along the "frou-frou" road and sprinkled the tops of the chunky cookies with a little flaked sea salt before squishing them down and baking them. I think it made for a unique "pop" to traditional peanut butter cookies, even though standard chippers, caramelly drops, and full-blown chocolate cookies have been doing it forever.

I swear, though, I made the biggest mistake upon putting the first tray of these in the oven... I popped onto Twitter and announced I was baking peanut butter, honey, banana, oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies with peanut butter cups. And that I had way more than I could deal with...  particularly since neither I nor my sister would eat them. Well the sweet teeth out there popped out of the woodwork on my feed, some of them demanding (nicely, by the way) cookie-age. And really, I didn't help matters much by posting the photos either! Joel lucked out, in the end... there are 6 cookies stashed in my freezer with his name on them come market-crawl time!

So yes. Make these cookies... trust me. Just don't tell anyone you're doing it, or be prepared to share them all!

"Gild the Lily" Cookies
Makes 30
3 ripe bananas, cut into chunks
2 tsp honey
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup smooth peanut butter (not natural)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup chocolate chips
10 miniature peanut butter cups, quartered and frozen
Sea salt, for sprinkling

  1. Preheat oven to 400F, lightly grease a small baking dish.
  2. Place bananas into the dish and bake for 30 minutes.
  3. Drain the excess liquid from the baking dish, add honey and vanilla and mash completely. Set aside to cool slightly.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the flours, oats, wheat germ, cornstarch, flaxseed, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the butter, peanut butter, and sugars until smooth.
  6. Add the egg and mix well.
  7. Add the mashed banana mixture and blend in, then add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly.
  8. Stir in the chocolate chips and peanut butter cup pieces.
  9. Cover and refrigerate dough 1 hour.
  10. Preheat oven to 350F.
  11. Portion onto an ungreased sheet and sprinkle with sea salt.
  12. Bake one sheet at a time for 11 minutes (keep remaining dough in the fridge). Do not over bake!
  13. Cool completely on the sheets.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 197.4
Total Fat: 10.5 g
Cholesterol: 15.4 mg
Sodium: 82.6 mg
Total Carbs: 25.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.1 g
Protein: 4.6 g

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

For When The Tomatoes Come In

It's the time of year where gardeners everywhere are anxiously out in their beds every day, hoping for the first ripe, juicy and tasty tomatoes to be waiting on the vines. Depending on the year's weather, and what sometimes feels like the mood of Mother Nature, the fruit may wait until well into August to start blushing or be so early that you're caught unprepared for the harvest! Our plants are still being far outshone by the neighbouring peppers, beans, carrots and radishes, especially mine - I'm trying my hand (again) at growing a few kinds from seed. If they take, and flourish, I'll have some of the tastiest tomatoes in the world (I sampled all of them before planting!) - Black Prince, Sasha's Altai, Green Zebra and a "grab bag" mix that I bought along with some Cossack Pineapple Ground Cherries from the awesome folks at Salt Spring Seeds. I was desperate to have something other than the boring (but still tasty) slicers, cherries and San Marzanos we grow, and since I couldn't find any of the heirlooms or my other favourite - Juliet tomatoes - as seedlings I ponied up the cash based on my garden-magician aunt's recommendation. So now I wait, and wait... and cross my fingers that the wonky rain -> overbearing heat -> rain weather we've been having here wasn't sealed their fate.  

But if you know, or you are, one of those avid veggie gardeners that's blessed with an early harvest, what do you do when that first basket of tomatoes comes in the door? Chow has a topic devoted to the subject if you need help answering that question - provided that you've already savoured them au naturel first, preferably warm off the stalk! I know in my garden I don't even have to pause long enough to wash the beauties before biting in like an apple, since we don't use any sort of chemicals on our plants and the rich soil bed left from the potato farm that used to be here is our main fertilizer!

In the end though, when we have more than we can willingly eat plain, we usually turn to the tried-and-true Tomato Sandwich. Like I've said before, it never seems to matter what really surrounds the tomato in that combination, be it toasted Wonder Bread or the best Poilâne miche, though I still favour a crusty sourdough myself... the idea is that the tomato is the star.

But why not take the opportunity to have that perfect tomato on slices of equally delicious, home made bread? Beyond just a simple sourdough, I took the opportunity to add some traditional (and not so traditional) elements to my free-form boule that I adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman’s book Bread. Along with some (okay, a bunch of) tangy Parmesan and a sprinkling of oregano, I added a smoky note reminiscent of the also-Summery B.L.T.'s bacon with smoked Spanish paprika. And what goes with smoky, rich bacon? Well, cornbread of course! So when I made my flour mixture, I sprinkled in some cornmeal and yellow corn flour too for extra good measure!

As this bread (submitted to YeastSpotting this week) came together, rose and finally baked to crusty, golden perfection, the smell was intoxicating - I could just imagine what sandwiches could be made with it... from thin, dainty slices surrounding a club sandwich, to thick slabs toasted under the broiler, rubbed with garlic and topped off with a juicy tomato and a touch of balsamic. We have the bread. We have the balsamic. Now all we need around here are those darn tomatoes!

Yeasted Cheesy Corn Bread
Makes 1 large loaf, 30 slices
16 oz active sourdough starter
4 oz cornmeal
4 oz yellow cornflour (not cornstarch)
5 oz 12-grain flour
10 oz all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tbsp instant yeast (optional if your starter is very strong)
1 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup melted butter
6 oz grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Combine the sourdough starter, cornmeal, cornflour, 12-grain flour, all-purpose flour, kosher salt, smoked paprika, basil, yeast, milk and water in a large bowl or stand mixer, stirring gently. Let stand 10 minutes.
  2. Begin mixing on medium-low speed, for about 5 minutes, then add butter and knead in.
  3. Continue kneading for 10 minutes.
  4. Allow dough to rest 5 minutes, then knead 1-2 minutes further.
  5. Cover bowl and allow to rest 45 minutes.
  6. Deflate dough and knead briefly to re-distribute the gluten.
  7. Shape into a smooth ball and place on a greased baking sheet.
  8. Cover and allow to rise for 1 hour.
  9. Preheat oven to 450F and place a pan of hot water on the bottom rack.
  10. Slash the top of the loaf 1-2 times and place in the oven.
  11. Bake 25 minutes, then remove the pan of water.
  12. Bake a further 20 minutes.
  13. Remove immediately from the sheet and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 156.0
Total Fat: 4.1 g
Cholesterol: 8.8 mg
Sodium: 111.9 mg
Total Carbs: 24.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.2 g
Protein: 6.2 g

Monday, July 12, 2010

Something Smells Fishy...

Whenever my family would go out to eat when I was a kid, instead of asking for garlic bread or mozzarella sticks for an appetizer I would invariably order a Caesar salad with lots of fresh cracked pepper on top. While it was certainly not the healthiest option out there, it was still a salad... so my parents were more than happy to let me have at it - and I would clean the bowl, with the exception of the ever-present croutons. I still cannot understand the appeal of adding cubes of stale, tooth-shattering bread soaked in oil to a perfectly decent bed of greens, but mind you I also abhor adding fruit, nuts or seeds to my salads too. I'll chalk it up to a texture thing.

But anyways, with all my Caesar ordering, I shuddered at the thought of allowing anything like anchovies onto my dinner plate. I had never tasted them, but from what my mom told me about them I really did not want to know for myself. So I would badmouth the tiny, salty sea creatures and express a kind of disgusted awe at the fact that my grandfather loved them on his pizza and would order them if given the chance. Little did I know that I had been eating the dang things for years, simply mashed up and blended into a creamy dressing or sauteed with onions and garlic before melting into the marinara sauce on my seafood fettuccine!

Well, once I found out, I wasn't really about to give up eating Caesars - I mean, I'd been loving the taste for that long, and it wasn't like the taste had changed at all! But I had never made my own creamy Caesar from scratch before. At home, Caesars were made from a head of romaine and a bottle of dressing - it seemed too much of a fuss to make the vinaigrette from scratch, what with all the egg yolk business! Then I stumbled across Lydia's (from The Perfect Pantry) recipe for "Caesar Salad with Shrimp", which in addition to utilizing the anchovy in paste form (yay, no mashing!) also used either prepared mayonnaise or Miracle Whip - one of my vices that I get a craving for every so often. So I bought the tube of fish paste, the jar of Whip and a carton of baby romaine lettuce, thawed out some "salad shrimp" I had in my freezer and gave it a whirl. Holy cow was it good! It's become a no-cook Summer supper staple for me, especially these days with the insane temperatures! This is also my submission to Marye's Real Food... Real Quick event and Meals on Mondays this week.

Creamy Garlic Shrimp Caesar
Serves 2
1/4 cup Miracle Whip
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp anchovy paste
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Worcestershire
12 oz baby romaine lettuce
7 oz cooked salad shrimp
  1. In a small dish combine Miracle Whip, 1 tbsp Parmesan, anchovy paste, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic powder and Worcestershire. Chill 1 hour.
  2. In a serving bowl, toss lettuce with the chilled dressing until well coated.
  3. Divide between two bowls and top each with an equal portion of salad shrimp.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 235.6
Total Fat: 9.6 g
Cholesterol: 212.3 mg
Sodium: 912.9 mg
Total Carbs: 8.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.9 g
Protein: 28.3 g

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mary (and Everyone Else), Did You Know?

I learn the most interesting things about the things in my herb and vegetable garden some times. Like when I was at my elementary school's reunion celebration a few weeks ago and mentioned to a group of fellow "foodie gardeners" that I had planted a horseradish seedling last year for the spicy root that I absolutely adore. Most of the conversation's participants never knew horseradish could be grown in our more Northern climate, since it's taste is so "hot", and the notion of wasabi (also technically viable here) is so foreign. But come to think of it, grated horseradish is one of the most common condiments with British fare like roast beef, so why can't us Canucks give it a college try? Well, it turns out that horseradish is way more than a root plant. In fact, if you let it run amok in your garden, it can turn into a bit of a weed, invading your soil space much like sunchokes will. As the plant grows it's valuable, tasty taproot downwards, it also reaches skyward with huge palm tree-like leaves that can get as long as your forearm and just as wide. This is probably a coping mechanism developed to deal with being frequently grown in shade, but if your horseradish shares a plot with other plants, like mine does, you have to periodically remove the larger fronds to prevent it overshadowing the littler greens.

But what I found out during that conversation was that far from just serving as compost fodder in my garden bed, the leaves of the horseradish plant are actually edible. Not only are they edible, but when prepared similarly to kale or collard greens, they are actually quite delicious, tasting like a cross between peppery arugula and baby spinach with a texture similar to kale. One of my friends who had tasted stewed horseradish greens in the southern U.S. told me about a stewed preparation he had eaten made with bacon, onions and potatoes, and recommended I try cooking with them since they were so plentiful. Being dark leafy greens as well, I can only imagine the amount of folate and other vitamins the leaves have in them too! Apparently, if you harvest the leaves when they're small and tender, they're a great punch of flavour in salads, but in order to eat the larger ones they really should be cooked. Rather than stewing the leaves down into oblivion through (no offense to my Southern neighbours who like stewed greens!) I discovered a better way to prepare them, exactly the same way as my favourite kale dish - chips!

I don't know of anyone else who's made "horseradish chips" like this, and I'm quite pleased that I've tried it - the leaves lose their "heavy", "green" flavour and become light, zippy crisps that (truth be told) I like to dust with wasabi powder before firing - I'm not afraid of spice!

Healthy Horseradish Crisps
Serves 4
200 grams horseradish greens, middle rib removed and torn into "chip sized" pieces
Non-stick cooking spray
Kosher salt and black pepper (or wasabi powder) to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 275F, line a baking sheet with parchment or SilPat.
  2. Place the greens into a bowl and spray with a light coating of non-stick spray.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to combine, "massaging" the greens to incorporate the salt well.
  4. Spread in one layer on the baking sheet.
  5. Bake 10 minutes, then gently flip the pieces over and bake a further 7-10 minutes, until crispy.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 14.0
Total Fat: 0.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 11.5 mg
Total Carbs: 2.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.0 g
Protein: 1.0 g