Saturday, December 31, 2011


Happy New Year's Eve, everyone! I somehow doubt anyone is exactly dying to peruse the world of food blogs tonight, so I'll keep this short. Besides, on the off chance you aren't doing anything tonight and have these rather random ingredients hanging around, you'll have some nibblies to take with you if you decide to go off mumming after midnight!

Both of these variations on the classic cocktail "glazed nut" were inspired from Dinah Corley's Gourmet Gifts: 100 Delicious Recipes for Every Occasion to Make Yourself and Wrap with Style. I was generously given a copy of this book to try out and let me tell you - I made 3 different things for gifts this holiday season, and each one was such a hit I got requests to make them again, just because! If you do a lot of gifting (like me), or are a crafty type of person (like my aunt), this book will be a frequent source of inspiration, instruction and information. Bonus: the resource list at the back gives you all sorts of places to find nifty containers and decorations!

But back to these nuts. Yes, there are about 4 gazillion of these recipes out on the web, but I fell in love with the heady combination of sweet, savoury and hot spices cloaking Corley's Mumbai Nuts. I had to change the recipe somewhat to compensate for my oven (which didn't go low enough for the book's directions) but I think the idea shone through. I also bought mixed nuts in bulk to save the fuss and bother of mixing "precise" amounts of each (not to mention to save cash along the way!). They were such a hit, in fact, that I took the theory and played around with a Japanese combination of ingredients for a sushi-loving friend of mine to enjoy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Summat for the Kids

I didn't get a chance to share with you all the "kid friendly" treat I put out for the people - including my panforte and anything-but-shortbreads-and-chocolate chip cookie-hating sister - on Christmas Eve and tucked into the children's treat bags before the holiday itself rolled around, so what better time than now?
I knew that most of the extended family, especially the men (surprisingly) are die-hard chocolate lovers, and even those that don't are hard pressed to pass up a good brownie. These were a little bit on the "adult" side anyways, since I used the delicious 70% bittersweet Lindt bars I picked up on sale as both the "melted" and half of the "chip" components and tossed in some cherry-flavoured dried cranberries too. I didn't want to use nuts, since I wasn't sure what the attendees would either like and/or be allergic to, but some smashed Mini Eggs added a bit of crispness to the batter and lightened up the dark chocolate a touch. I wasn't disappointed - both the batch for the holiday at home and the pan I brought to my hairdresser's disappeared without hesitation. At the salon, one woman even dropped a square, where it landed in her boot, and she grabbed it right out and scarfed it anyways!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Fishy Feast

Most of you by now know that our half-Italian family goes a bit crazy on Christmas eve when it comes to hosting the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes. Ironically, my (non-Italian) mother is really the only person in the house (besides me) who likes more than two types of fish or seafood! Since I don't "count" in group menus due to my diet (not that it would matter anyways in a cast of 5!), the resulting menu tends to have a lot of vegetarian "filler" sides like broccoli and cauliflower with cheese sauce, salad, cheese lasagne or cannelloni, bread and angel hair marinara.

Over the years, my seafood loving Mom has been able to incorporate a little bit of variety into the "fish" portion of the meal. While still nowhere close to seven types of water-bound creatures, usually about two recipes work their way onto the table for the guests to enjoy. This year, one of my mom's most popular fish recipes once again made it's appearance, no doubt due to the fact that it's both a very special occasion dish (Salmon! Butter! Challah! Cream!) and that it serves a ton of people. Or in the case of our family... 8. We lucked out cost wise by buying the sides of wild Pacific salmon on sale at Costco a month or so ago and freezing them until the day of, but regardless it's not a penny-pinching recipe by any stretch. It is more than worth it, though - if you need to impress anyone, this is definitely one to make. 
Mom’s Spectacular Stuffed Salmon
Serves 16
3 tbsp salted butter
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, halved
2 cups soft Challah (or country-style) bread crumbs
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
2 tsp dried dill
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 lb fresh cremini or shiitake mushrooms, chopped
¼ cup buttermilk
2 sides (2 ½ lbs each) skinless wild Pacific salmon, pin bones removed
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease a roasting dish.
  2. In a large sauté pan, melt 3 tbsp butter.
  3. Add onion and garlic and cook over low heat until onion is beginning to turn golden. Remove garlic and discard, set onion aside.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the Challah crumbs, parsley, dill, lemon juice and mushrooms with the cooked onion. 
  5. Pour buttermilk overtop and mix thoroughly to evenly wet mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Place one piece of salmon in the bottom of the dish and spread evenly with the stuffing. Top with the remaining side of salmon, pressing down lightly.
  7. Scald heavy cream and pour over the fish, then season with salt and pepper and cover.
  8. Bake 35 minutes, until flaky, basting with creamy pan juices every 10 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 402.4
Total Fat: 23.6 g
Cholesterol: 150.9 mg
Sodium: 150.9 mg
Total Carbs: 4.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.4 g
Protein: 40.1 g

Equally decadent and pricey was a newcomer to our kitchen - a recipe I devised for my mom after she returned from a business trip to Moncton raving about a baked haddock and seafood casserole that she had eaten at an establishment called the City Grill. She had been craving to know just how the dish came together, and after a quick peek at the menu and hearing her description of the meal as being "crispy and buttery on top, then tiny scallops and pieces of shrimp and a fillet of haddock underneath" with "not much spicing, maybe lemon" I had the bare structure of the meal. A dash of wine, some butter and - gasp - Ritz crackers ensued and by the time it all came together my mom was raving about how it not only looked identical to her high-end meal but tasted even better!

Baked Haddock and Seafood
Serves 6
1 lb haddock fillets, cut into 6 pieces
4 oz bay (small) scallops
12 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ cup white wine
2 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup butter, melted
1 cup crushed Ritz crackers
2 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp black pepper
Zest of ½ lemon
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F, line a roasting pan with parchment.
  2. Lay fish fillets in a single layer on the bottom of the dish, then top with scallops and shrimp.
  3. Pour the white wine and lemon juice overtop of the seafood.
  4. In a bowl, toss butter, cracker crumbs, garlic powder, black pepper and lemon zest.
  5. Sprinkle over the seafood.
  6. Bake 15 minutes, then turn the broiler to HI and broil 2 minutes, until browned.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 280.7
Total Fat: 12.3 g
Cholesterol: 69.5 mg
Sodium: 276.3 mg
Total Carbs: 9.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.0 g
Protein: 17.4 g

Friday, December 23, 2011

A "Strong Bread" for Us Weaklings

Well, I definitely asked for it. Call it a Murphy's Law of a sort - after all my detailing of our holiday climate being anything but "wintry", we woke up today to a bitterly freezing, windy and slightly grey day. Still no snow - but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it holds off at least until Boxing Day! I'm definitely a weak soul when it comes to the chilly weather too, at any given time you can bet I'll be wearing at least a long-sleeved shirt, if not a sweater or two. I even work out in long pants and an athletic jacket!

In the past few months I've become aware of another level of weakness I've managed to accrue - brittle bones. Though I already knew I was osteoporotic in my hip and shins, it never occured to me before that the effect of decalcification impacted my entire skeleton, not just those two bone groups. In the middle of helping my mom make her delicious apple pie (specifically wedging the apples) a pop, clunk and searing pain through one side of my chest signalled something totally alien to me - a broken rib. I never thought I'd have in my lifetime, let alone at 23 years old, any sort of fracture, and I'm sorry to say it took me well over a month filled with painful breathing, bending and twisting to get it checked out. So no contact sports for me, even though it's mostly healed up!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Warming Up

Well, this year may not be the coldest winter on record. In fact, it's a balmy 5°C right now - on December 22! In Toronto at least, the "honour" of cold days goes to January 4, 1981 when it hit −44.7°C (−48.5°F). But it is still winter. I'm not going outside anytime soon in a T-shirt and shorts, and while I'm glad we're not digging ourselves out of mountains of snow I still get the yearning to embrace the "come in from the cold" activities of cocoa and cookies after an afternoon of tobogganing.

Thankfully cookies and cocoa are not overly dependent on sub-zero temperatures for enjoyment. I brought a bit of internal comfort to the mint-chilled stomachers of yesterday's cookies with some tiny, spicy versions of my favourite "breakfast food" - the cinnamon bun.

Taking a long-overdue page out of the LCBO's Food and Drink magazine, I changed up chef Anna Olson's shortbreads by using cream cheese in the dough (instead of making the frosting traditional on the yeasted buns), swapping buttermilk for the heavy cream, and decorating the finished slices with a tangy buttermilk drizzle so that they looked more like cinnamon rolls and less like ordinary pinwheel cookies. Since I knew the switch from a dough based on butter to the cheese would cause the dough to be a bit more delicate to handle, I bumped up the sturdiness and flakiness of the recipe with shortening and froze the rolls thoroughly before baking them off. Finally, to the filling of half the batch, I added two tablespoons of ground pecans - something for my pecan-adoring mom to discover. The end result was a sweet, slightly tangy and spicy bite of all the best things a cinnamon roll offers - and because I made them tiny, having a few with that cup of cocoa is totally A-OK!

Cinnamon Roll Cookies
Makes 75
1 cup flour
1/2 cup barley flour
1/2 cup oat flour
3 packets stevia
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
4 oz cream cheese
2 oz shortening
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tbsp cinnamon
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp cornstarch
(optional - 1/4 cup ground pecans)

1/4 cup icing sugar
2 tsp buttermilk
1 tsp lemon juice

  1. Whisk together flours, stevia, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.   
  2. Cream cream cheese, shortening, sugar, buttermilk and vanilla until fluffy.  
  3. Beat in dry ingredients.   
  4. Divide in half, wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour before rolling out.
  1. Mix all ingredients until thoroughly combined.
  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of dough into a large rectangle (about 1/8 - 1/4" thick). Spread half of the filling evenly over rectangle.
  2. Roll up from the long side. Repeat with second piece of dough.
  3. Wrap each and freeze for at least 4 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Rolls into 1/4" thick slices and place 1" apart on sheets.
  6. Bake, one sheet at a time, for 15 minutes. Cookies will be just starting to turn golden.
  7. Cool completely on the sheet before removing.
  1. Whisk together all ingredients until smooth and creamy.
  2. Drizzle over baked cookies and allow to set.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 42.5
Total Fat: 1.6 g
Cholesterol: 2.5 mg
Sodium: 8.9 mg
Total Carbs: 8.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.2 g
Protein: 0.5 g

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cooling Down

This year it looks like Christmas is going to arrive in a flurry of... mist. Personally, I'm not complaining - you don't have to shovel rain - but the lack of chill in the air and snow on the ground has been causing a little bit of apathy in my social circle. Rather than break into the chilled New Year's Eve champagne early, I brought out the good old "Thin Mint" cookie to cool everyone down a bit  at the salon I go to.

Of course, I wanted to bring something that all the stylists and their clients could enjoy. I know from experience that getting through any holiday when you can't share in the same gastronomic delights as everyone else is more than a little difficult, and when it's ChrismaHanuKwanzaa the treats abound in all the buttery, creamy, nutty, eggy cookie and sweets sense. So rather than bring in my standard (and delicious on their own) Thin Mints, I re-tooled the recipe to make it gluten free, nut free and vegan. While these aren't beacons of health (they're cookies!) they were the perfect decadent touch to the day. I enjoyed making and sharing them (both the chocolate-coated and naked ones) as much as the recipients enjoyed eating them!

Christmas Gloom and Goodies

We're almost through the horror that is the holiday season madness. In five sleeps, the insanity of Christmas Eve will be upon us, and in six, the hubbub of Christmas Day will be here. Those who know me and my general aversion to all things "holiday" never hesitate to call me a Scrooge, or drop an ever so passive-aggressive "guilt trip" comment about how they wish I would be more active in all the festivities. Well, call me a Scrooge, call me a downer, but I just don't have the energy to deal with 40 seniors (or almost-seniors) at a house party, even if they somehow share a blood line with me. Not only am I at least 20 years younger than anyone else attending, I have nothing in common with them - not least being my diet. It's one thing to have a cut-and-dry allergy or food preference (i.e. my second cousin is deathly allergic to nuts and eggs, my great uncle will not eat any meat but roast beef cooked until grey), but explaining the intricacies of how I went from being the most die-hard carnivore, butter and cheese fiend to being totally unable to digest those same items is difficult even at the best of times, and downright frustrating having to repeat the same story year after year. The worst part is that the conclusion of the plot is always the same vague trail-off - we still don't know, and I've given up on wasting time and energy seeking out an answer. It's not their fault, I know, but all the same, family Christmases just aren't the joy and bliss for me that they are for the rest of the clan. 
I'm not alone in this mentality. My sister feels generally the same way, although she has the benefit of having always been the "picky child", so nobody questions her abstinence from the buffet line. Teaghan also has the luck of being an overall "louder" and more boisterous person than I, which allows her to be a bit less of a wallflower at these occasions.

After all that, you'd think I'd be first in line for a flight to Timbuktu come November 1. But I do love one thing about the holiday season - all the prep leading up to it. I adore wrapping gifts, decorating the tree, arranging menus, and of course all the baking! There is no better excuse to break out the fun "goodie" recipes than the festive season, and this year I had a fair amount of new ones I wanted to try out!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Quite Convenient Cupcakes

Apparently, today is National Cupcake Day. Clever, situating a holiday around one of the cutest (and ome would say sneakiest) delivery devices of fat and sugar on the planet. I also find it slightly ironic that a day as decadent as this one is right smack dab in the middle of the "stuff your face" season, where really we should all be trying to keep our diets in check (or at least practicing moderation!).
Then again, when have I been one to eschew the goodness and happiness a baked good can bring to the world? Thankfully, I didn't have to make yet another sweet treat to share with the blogosphere - I had a recipe in my files I had been meaning to post for ages and now had the opportunity to bust it out! Remember back when I was busy waxing poetic about this year's Autism gala cake, packing any fora I had available with step by step, "new parent"-esque photos? Well, somewhere in the middle of all that kerfuffle I managed to squeeze out a dozen of these gluten and casein free goodies for donation as well.
Why gluten and casein free? Well, although it is not a cure for the anomaly (I hesitate to call it a "disorder" or "disease" as I know many individuals who are fully capable of independent and contributory living), numerous research reports have detailed the benefits of excluding these proteins from the autistic diet. Given that my standard cake contribution to the event is anything but GF/CF, and knowing that a good portion of that evening's attendees were relatives (if not parents) and caregivers of autistic individuals, I wanted to donate something that they could bid on and take home for their entire family to enjoy without worry.

Sadly, these deliciously orange-packed cakelets are not entirely a creation of my own design. That honour goes to the Gluten Free Goddess Karina, who's blog I spent many an hour paging through looking for a goodie that would be simple enough to pull off and elegant enough to dress up for a gala performance. When I saw her exquisitely detailed recipe for Frosted Orange Creme Cupcakes I knew I had my star. A couple mini-tweaks and a piping bag later the cupcakes were done, frosted and sparkling in their monotonal orange glory. The lack of colour differential was no mistake on my part either. One of the things I picked up over my year at holistic nutrition college was that many people who fall on the Spectrum of autism related disorders have issues with overstimulation from external triggers, not the least being the food on their plate. Last year, a group of food bloggers held an awareness event to that effect, so you can check out the associated blogs for more info if you're interested.

So enjoy these fruity, sweet, tangy cupcakes - regardless of whether you're in need of the modifications or not. Their flavour is perfect for any season and you don't need a special occasion to dig in!

Orange Crème Cupcakes – GFCF
Makes 12
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp honey (or agave nectar)
juice of 2 oranges
1 tbsp Ener-G Egg Replacer whisked with ¼ cup warm water
1 tbsp pure vanilla
½ cup sorghum flour
¼ cup coconut flour
¼ cup potato starch (not potato flour!)
½ cup arrowroot starch
½ cup sugar
3 packets stevia
¼ tsp sea salt
pinch nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp guar gum
zest of 1 orange

¼ cup shortening
1 tbsp Southern Comfort
zest of ½ orange
3 drops natural yellow food colour (optional)
2 drops natural red food colour (optional)
2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tbsp orange juice (as needed)
Orange sprinkles or sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a twelve cupcake/muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. With electric beaters, beat oil, honey, orange juice, egg replacer and vanilla until well blended.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and beat on medium speed for two minutes.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (I found 20 to be perfect), until slightly tender but not squishy.
  5. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove cupcakes and cool on a wire rack. 
  1. Beat shortening, Southern Comfort, orange zest, and food colour (if using) on medium high until smooth.
  2. Sift in the sugar slowly until incorporated. Add orange juice as needed to make the frosting smooth and creamy.
  3. Pipe frosting on cupcakes and sprinkle with decorations.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 251.6
Total Fat: 6.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 1.2 mg
Total Carbs: 47.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.4 g
Protein: 1.2 g

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ah! (Four) Gingers!

GF, Corn-Free, Vegan
Gingerbread Cutouts
The outward look of my family is one that really makes you marvel at the weird things genetics can to to offspring. If you were to see my grandparents, mom, dad, sister and I together in a group, you might pick out that my sister and my dad had something in common, or that my mom and grandma have a similar fine cheekbone structure. But me? Well, I look almost nothing like my immediate relatives. I'm a fair bit taller than any of my female blood relatives (though my male relations are tall, so I got a boost there). Unlike my sister, who has an enviable swarthy, almost olive complexion and a face structure that allows her to pull off any hats or glasses she tries on (even really, really bad ones), I'm pale, apt to burning after 15 minutes in the sun and the only reason I wear hats or glasses at all is to avoid skin cancer and see more than 6 inches in front of my face (literally). I'm also the only "ginger child"... the "red sheep" of the family if you will. As a kid, I hated it, since along with my chronically red face it meant that all the "cool" clothes in the store looked awful on me, but I've come to embrace, and even love, the genetic anomaly I've been given.

Of course, I really started to defend my redheaded appearance after the Harry Potter movies started coming out, sparking a round of "ginger" jokes. Ironically, I don't actually know any other natural redheads, but at the same time I believe that we're all just as loveable as the rhizome that our colouring is (mistakenly) named after. Since when you look at the colour of a ginger root, it's a mousey brown when the peel's still on it's gnarled frame, and after it sheds the paper-like layer it's a gorgeous, straw-blonde. So why the association with redheads, I ask? Why don't we get called "PEI beaches" or "topazes"? That makes just as much, if not more, sense than "gingers".
Homemade Candied Ginger

Anyways, I've taken advantage of all the flavours and variations the ginger root has to readily offer the home baker this holiday. From grating the fresh rhizome to using ground, dried powder, dicing sugar-coated candied slices, folding in chunks of sugar-soaked crystalline spice and even making my own candied ginger and ginger caramel a la Alton Brown, it's been in no short supply here! I rounded up the goods from the past week of bakery into this one post, for everyone's holiday cheer - especially my good friend and past teacher Verity, who is the biggest ginger fan I know!

And for those of you wondering, the title is adapted from a line in the (very awesome) A Very Potter Musical.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Preserving Health

Baking with my mom can be like pulling teeth. I love her dearly, but when it comes to making something together that the rest of the family is going to be eating, God forbid that any recipe "tweaking" or changes to the written recipe of any sort happen along the way. She doesn't trust recipes of my own design for family fare either. Other blogs? Magazines? People on TV? No problem. Her own daughter though? Not so much. Le sigh.

I regret to say that while yes, these rolls (sent to YeastSpotting) are of my own design, and that my mom loves the recipe enough to serve them for our Christmas Eve shindig, they are the product of a lie. I told my mom that they came out of a French cookbook I read through at Chapters the other day, after she mentioned a week or so ago that she was looking for a good whole wheat dinner roll for the holiday meal. She agreed we could make the recipe - if we made a test version first. That was no problem with me, of course, but it also involved me giving Mom a little "education" on sourdough, whole wheat and soakers. The woman taught me how to bake as a child, but it was white flour basics and our once-a-year Challah. Let's say I've evolved a little bit.

I feel guilty as heck for having to make up the story to get Mom's approval, but in a way I also am somewhat let down that I had to in the first place. C'est la vie. Her mental health is preserved, and given the rest of the world that's on her shoulders right now it's a small plus. If I'm going to Hell for the white (or whole wheat) lie, at least I'm making the trip in a bread basket, and hopefully with some of these yummy buns tucked alongside me.

Faux "French Health Rolls"
Makes 15
1 cup active sourdough starter (feed it a couple times before making this)
1 ½ cups warm water
2 tbsp instant mashed potato flakes
¼ tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp raw sugar (I steal the packets from Starbucks... shhh!)
2 ½ cups flour
2 cups whole wheat bread flour
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp whole flax seeds
  1. The night before baking, cover 12-grain cereal with hot water and let stand overnight.
  2. The morning of baking, lightly oil a 9 x13” pan.
  3. In a sturdy bowl, combine the sourdough starter (which should be vibrant and frothy), water, potato flakes, yeast, and sugar.
  4. Begin beating in the flour, adding ½ cup at a time until dough is manageable.
  5. Knead for 2 minutes. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes.
  6. Drain the soaked grains and combine with the salt, melted butter, lemon juice and flax seeds.
  7. Knead in this mixture until well dispersed, then continue kneading 8-9 minutes until supple.
  8. Place dough in a bowl, cover and set in a warm place to double in size, about 2 hours.
  9. When dough has doubled, punch down and with lightly floured hands, form into 15 rolls.
  10. Place in the oiled pan and cover. Allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  11. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  12. Bake the pan of rolls for 20 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 218.0
Total Fat: 3.1 g
Cholesterol: 4.1 mg
Sodium: 13.4 mg
Total Carbs: 41.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.0 g
Protein: 7.0 g

Monday, December 5, 2011

Spicing Up the Season

It's no secret that, as a recent grad, I'm a little strapped for cash this holiday gift-giving season. That said, I'm also one of those people that can't help but want to give my family and friends the "best" of everything - they've been so kind, understanding and generous to me over the years that I could never begin to repay them, but I at least set out to try.

Luckily, the best gifts are always those from the heart - and I'm well practiced at giving those! From when I first realized the process of "giving" at holiday and birthday times, I began concocting things I could bring to the event. Even though my parents would foot the bill for "proper" gifts from the store for the friends and family, I would find a way to do something of my own. My three year old self thrived on giving my relatives hand-drawn stick figure-and-scribble pictures (with a bow stuck to them) as presents, and once I started Home Ec in elementary school it was pretty much a guarantee that the last project of the year would become the first thing wrapped for my parents.

These days my giving list has changed somewhat, though the number of recipients has stayed more or less the same. The major difference over the years is that I've begun to refine the items I make to give away, focusing on my cooking and baking strengths (which should be obvious from this blog!) and finding a way to package them attractively (in an upcoming book review you'll see how a real gifter operates! One of my "themes" for this year's gifting stems from the bounty and variety of things my garden gave me over the summer. Grape jam, green tomato chutney, green tomato-carrot-beet mincemeat and roasted "everything" sauce were simmered, stewed, stirred and canned, awaiting their chance to be gilded with ribbons and bows and given away along with the prerequisite baked goodies (one of which you know is a constant, the others as yet are unshared!).

When I set about making that Sweet Garlic Pomodoro Sauce, I found that I had more tomatoes than I really wanted at my disposal. Instead, I set about making this rich, sweet and spicy tomato preserve laced with touches of ginger, cinnamon and lime. I decided on a blend of recipes that I had from books and two delicious looking blogs that translated into a mix of dark brown sugar, chili flakes, pineapple sage, lime, ginger and cinnamon that the tomatoes cooked in until they were a rich, thick, caramelly mass. I scaled down the recipes (thank you Excel!) and it made exactly 1 cup, perfect for the two tiny jam jars I had. I think it would be fitting for a cheese and cracker plate, or stirred into steamed broccoli and asparagus for a weeknight side.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Twice the Tasty Tarts

Now that December's come around and brought the flurry of parties, open houses and other shindigs along with it, I wanted to share a few of my recent successes when it comes to things yummy and portable. Unfortunately, I've been a pretty big fail the past few days when it comes to taking decent photos of my cooking, and making sure the photos I have taken actually save onto my hard drive - so you'll simply have to picture the goodies yourself!

Tartlets are pretty much a perfect party food, since you can put almost anything in a pastry shell, bake it (if need be) and voila - appetizers or desserts in half an hour. Its hard to pass up two-bite nibblies, and when it comes to the appetizer table tartlets beat out chips and dip hands down - if for no other reason than they are their own dip cup and chip in one! I was trying to figure out a good bring-along treat for an early-season get together with the family and found these phyllo shells at the local grocery store. My mom loves phyllo anything, and originally wanted to buy a premade fig and brie appetizer in the flaky shells, but once I pitched this to her and make them, those storebought pastries were long forgotten.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Who Gets the Kitchen Aid Food Processor??

Thanks again to all those who entered and promoted my (admittedly awesome) KitchenAid Food Processor giveaway - I'm floored at how many interesting and unique responses I got along the way!

Saturday, November 26, 2011


One hour left in my KitchenAid Food Processor giveaway and I have SO many amazing responses! There are currently 86 entries, and I've read each and every one - I have one heck of a shopping list now :-). Thanks again for humouring me and my littlebloggie giveaways!

Sorry, no recipe tonight, but stay tuned for the winner tomorrow!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


So now that everyone on both sides of the border has eaten their fill of Thanksgiving chow (and, if you're like us, stashed the rest in the freezer to disappear until March), the attention of the masses is free to turn to the next seasonal shindig on the docket. Whether you're celebrating Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Divali, Yule, Solstice or simply being alive, warm and fed for another year, the cold weather brings people together in a way not much else can.
The cold and sometimes stormy weather has another side effect too, triggering the tastes for heartier, warming and (admittedly) higher-calorie and -fat food. It's a natural impulse - after all, back in the paleolithic times, humans needed that extra nourishment to keep warm and make it through until the next spring's plants and animals returned. Today, it's not a necessary yen, but still a persistent one... and should be looked at not as a source of "dreaded weight gain" but as an opportunity to embrace new and varied sources of nourishment.

Healthful whole grains (think steel cut oats, kasha, barley and grainy breads), tubers and squashes, cruciferous veggies and nuts all play starring roles when the mercury starts dropping. For those of us who turn to the stove and oven for comfort this season, baking and sweet treats begin to crop up on our "to-do" lists, as much for the purpose of continuing tradition as for sharing the bounty and warmth with others. For many years, holiday goodies at our home (except Mom's filled brioche) were solely the nut-free variety - nuts were verboten at school, and neither my sister nor I particularly cared for them (why have nuts, we reasoned, when you could have chocolate, or better yet, Mom's shortbread?). Even the more traditional dried fruits of mincemeat, fruitcake and Christmas pudding were relegated to the "older set". Dad was (and is to this day) the Mincemeat King, his mother always broke out the brandy-laced plum pudding at the holiday party, and we could count on any of my grandparents or great-relatives to take a doorstop fruitcake crusted in marzipan granite off our hands. I didn't eschew fruit completely - but unless it was a chunk of apple in my mom's to-die-for pie, a raisin in a rich, gooey buttertart or a plethora of dates in a "Matrimonial Square", I could be counted on to pass it by.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Feeling Ballsy

I am such a sucker for chocolate. Not that mamby-pamby "flavoured" stuff you usually find in your corner store, though. For me, I'm a 70% minimum all the way, and bittersweet chocolate truffles (possibly with a hint of sea salt) were one of my major weaknesses at holiday parties as a kid. Don't get me wrong - I'm still of the mind that any chocolate (except white... that ain't chocolate, guys) is better than none, and if offered a Twix bar I wouldn't necessarily say no! But I was probably the only non-adult I knew that didn't go crazy over extra-creamy hot chocolate, preferring just the barest amount of sugar in a cupful of unsweetened cocoa powder and 1% milk. Usually the only times I would indulge in the "milkier" variety involved mass consumption of Ferrero Rocher balls at Christmas and the occasional square of Hershey's in a s'more.

You'd think that after this tower of  insane chocolateyness I baked, fought with, and won over a few weeks ago that I'd never want to see or touch the stuff again. Logically, that would make sense. But there are two factors working against me on that one: firstly, I'm female, and it has been pointed out to me on occasion that women are biologically irrational creatures (I on the other hand beg to counter that men just need to open a few more mental boxes at a time). Second, I have never known someone with a passion for anything to be rational about experiencing it. And I do love truffles.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tis the Season of Heart Health

Hey! Want a brand-spanking-new KitchenAid Food Processor just in time for holiday gift-giving? Enter my holiday giveaway here! Hurry, ends soon!

This time of year (pretty much from our (read: Canadian) Thanksgiving until the New Year's resolutions have worn off) is both a time of excess and a period of reflection and appreciation for those around you. For me and my family, we're thankful every day for my grandfather's continuing presence with us. After a triple-bypass surgery, working in a chemical paint production plant, smoking every day since his teens, bouts of cancer, high blood pressure and most recently Type II diabetes, it seems that every little roadblock that could have stepped into his path has. But he was still lucky enough to have the chance to choose to improve his lifestyle and diet along the way - and now at the ripe old age of 79, he can easily run circles around me (literally and figuratively!). His levels are beginning to normalize, as much as they possibly can given his other medications, and he still has the wit, humour and mobility of a man half his age.

Unfortunately, 27.4 million people in the US are still diagnosed with heart disease every year - shortening the years of holidays spent with whole families and changing lives forever - sometimes in the blink of an eye. Developing Type II diabetes, having high cholesterol, hypertension, or a history of smoking, and of course being part of the overweight and obesity epidemic in the Western world spike your risk of becoming one of these statistics. But this high number of heart patients doesn't have to exist. 80%, possibly more, of the cases of heart disease are fully preventable. Staying active, getting regular checkups and eating a healthy diet will loosen the grip this condition has on your life, even if you're genetically predisposed to it like me.

Friday, November 18, 2011

So about this KitchenAid...(GIVEAWAY!)

KitchenAid is known mainly, at least to me for their stand mixers (their professional 6-qt model being another goody of theirs I would kill to own, sorry ol' faithful HamBeach), but the KA folks have brought out this new model of food processor just in time for Christmas! Here's the description (from their website):
An externally adjustable sliding blade coupled with exceptional performance ensures controlled and precise slicing, chopping and pureeing to help create a meal experience that brings the whole family together.
  • New external adjustable, stainless steel slicing disc provides ultimate versatility
  • Dual shredding disc easily flips the disc from 2mm to 4mm to achieve ideal slicing thickness
  • Large 13-cup (2.75L) leak-proof work bowl, plus chef’s bowl and mini bowl to efficiently
  • Ultra Wide Mouth Feed Tube™ adjusts to 3 different sizes to accommodate foods of varying sizes, including whole potatoes and cucumbers
  • 17 precise food processing options for speed-controlled slice, shred, chop & puree functions plus three maximized slice, shred and puree/chop blades and bonus dough, egg whip & Julienne blades
  • 4 speed-controlled functions
  • Comfort design side handle allows easy viewing while the food processor is in use

Need I say wow? Probably the most useful element of this in my kitchen is the wide feed tube, but the processing options are quite intriguing! It's a bit out of my price range right now (at just under $400 CDN) but that doesn't mean YOU can't get one for FREE! That's right, it's giveaway time!

The wonderful people from KitchenAid have given me the opportunity to give one of you (Canadian only, sorry!) foodies out there the amazing Christmas gift of a brand new KitchenAid 13-Cup Food Processor. Free. No strings attached (though I'd love to know what you do with it if you win!).
So what do you have to do?
  1. Browse through my blog and tell me in the comments which recipe using a food processor (or conceivably using one like grating, fine chopping, or pureeing) would be your favourite one to try. You must do this one to qualify for any other entries for this one.
Additional entries (please leave a separate comment for each one):
  • Tweet about this giveaway with the line: "@jo_jo_ba is giving away a BRAND NEW KitchenAid Food Processor!" and the link to this post.
  • Tell me your favourite small kitchen appliance or gadget (not a food processor) is and why.
There you go! Three chances to get your hands on this gorgeous gift!

Giveaway ends on Saturday, November 26, 2011.
Note: I have not personally recieved any payment or other reimbursement for this promotion. Winners will recieve direct shipment from KitchenAid of a new 13-cup processor.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Put to Good Use

I have to say, that as much as I blast my poor off-label food processor for being a little, well, less than reliable these days, I would without doubt be lost in the proverbial weeds without one at my disposal. True, I have a few blenders (including a well-loved immersion model) around, but by far it is my full-size food-pro that is the workhorse of my small kitchen appliances.

I've used it for almost everything - vats of pureed soup (like our first batch of this taste-winning recipe), shredding carrots, apples, beets and the like for salads, cakes and stews, chopping ingredients for chutneys and compotes, blitzing hummus and nut butterspie fillings and cheesecakesvegan ice cream base and, of course, smoothing out sauces like this one into luxurious velvet. In fact, I've been working my model so hard that I keep wondering how much longer I can keep it going before I'm forced to retire it for one of the makes I've been coveting since becoming a foodie - a KitchenAid.

But for now, I'll make do with what I have - and share some killer tomato sauce I made for Christmas gifts while I'm at it!
There's more. Trust me. It's below the jump.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Salad for All Seasons

One of the things I struggle with the most in the Fall and Winter months is the dearth of lush, vibrant and (above all) flavourful produce. True, these days it's possible to buy bright red tomatoes in February, strawberries in December and apples in any month with a vowel, but unless you're a globetrotter and happen to be in the correct hemisphere at the time, out-of-season fruit and veggies are just... bleh. While you can partially escape the lack of flavour with judicious use of frozen goods, the fact remains that you need to then cook them to maintain any sort of passable texture - and (excepting peas and corn which never seem to "die") that's a crapshoot at best.

It was a craving for something fresh, flavourful and not out of the frozen food or canned good section that led to the creation of one of the most vibrant and rich dishes I've made to date. Having seen the description of a vegetable salad on a chi-chi restaurant menu a week or so ago, I made up my mind that I could take the same concept - a lettuce-less, all-veggie bowl of goodness - and tweak it not only to add a medley of texture and flavour, but also to make it a viable option year-round. What I wound up with was a veritable artist's palette of colours layered not only with an eye towards artistry but with attention to the details of balancing raw versus cooked elements, mouthfeels of shredded, chopped and sliced vegetables and maintaining the well-rounded body of a dish containing sweet, sour, salty and bitter flavours.

While this salad is simple enough for lunch when paired with a piece of grilled chicken, salmon or even simply a hunk of crusty whole-grain bread and cheese, it is also gourmet enough to readily serve as a plated appetizer at a dinner party (especially when garnished with toasted walnuts, as I did here). The nice thing about the ingredients usd in this particular bowl is that regardless of whether you make it for Christmas Eve, Easter, a July picnic or Thanksgiving, at least one of the ingredients will be at the peak of freshness - and if you're blessed enough to have a garden as diverse as ours, you can grow almost everything in your own yard!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembering to Remember

*UPDATE* The gala's dessert auction raised a total of $1650 (even with half the attendance of previous years)! Congrats!

I need not tell you that today marks one of the most pivotal points in world history. While it is inspiring that we continue to pause a moment on this day even when only 10% of the soldiers who served in World War II are still with us, I often wonder who we forget to remember, appreciate and thank for their work each and every day to better the lives of others. I'm of course speaking of those who do put their life and livelihood on the line physically everyday, the hard-working police, paramedics, firefighters, rescue workers and of course currently serving military personnel. But I feel that we often fail to think of and give thanks for our "everyday" heroes who work hard so that somebody's - even if it's one person's - life is just a little bit better, a bit easier, that day.

People like our transit workers who get us to work, our line cooks who help us out when we're too tired to cook, our janitors, garbagemen and street cleaners who clean up after us, our doctors and nurses who treat us, and our teachers who enlighten us. There are many others who line the streets, fulfilling vital roles that keep our world spinning smoothly. So I want to take the time to pause and say thank you to everyone who does something selflessly for others, which can be anybody, any day - those who hold the door for the baggage-laden traveller or gave the person on the street who met their glance a smile. And though they cannot read (but who knows!) I think of our ever-loyal service animals who help people see, hear, prevent injury or provide comfort to those in need.

It is in this spirit of remembering all those heroes in our society that I'm sharing with you this cake. I was fortunate enough to be asked by the wonderful people at the Simcoe chapter of Autism Ontario to donate a cake again this year for their charity gala's dessert auction. Though I have made this cake many, many, many times before (if you can't tell, this is year #4!), it's always a special event for me because it means that I can, in a small way, give back to those who help everyone affected by ASD. This time, the cake turned into five layers of dense, rich, moist dark chocolate cake with a hint of malt from barley flour, Ovaltine and (of course) a bottle of beer. The filling was laced with a hint of cocoa, and got a nice shot of Godiva liqueur along with the "beer caramel" syrup I cooked down from the remains of the bottle. Then, as per all the previous cakes, the finished stack got drenched with two coats of bittersweet ganache and whimsically decorated.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

We Have A Winner!

Thanks to everyone who participated in my Melody Bar Dinner Giveaway! I loved reading all of your responses and I have to say I totally agree with them - Toronto really is a world of vitality, variety and a perfect mosaic of people, food, culture and lifestyles. While I wish I could give the $40 prize to all of you, I had to pick one. Rather, Mr. Random Integer had to pick one. So, without further ado, this is what the Power That Be had to say...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Nutty, Fruity, or Just a Blonde?

When it comes to flavour combinations, I'm (on occasion) new and bold in my cooking. I like to think that adding sliced bananas to the bottom of my strawberry-rhubarb pie and using honey, dates, wheat germ and Grand Marnier in my blueberry pie were pretty original! Then there's the rest of the time - more or less standard bills of fare come out to play - regardless of their overall application process. Garlic and tomatoes almost always pair together, just like my penchant for adding a touch of nutmeg to cream sauces and cinnamon to apple pie.

Well, I'm certainly not original this time, in either my ingredient selections or their application! Like my well-recieved thumprint cookies, I went the route of recreating a sandwich favourite - but I opted to make jam-swirled, banana-laced almond butter blondies instead of drop cookies. The reason was twofold - one, it was something different (and therefore bloggable!) and I was purely and completely lazy. Bar cookies, brownies and blondies included, are generally faster to put together and get in the oven than drop cookies (and certainly rolled or slice n' bakes), and with only one bowl and pan to wash I got out of the dish duty faster too. Easy and fast as these are, they're still delicious in every sense: a delicate balance of cakey and dense, buttery but not overly rich, with a delicate fruity sweetness from the banana that's the perfect balance against the tart jam. I would not suggest making these with a standard, sugary jam or jelly - if you don't have homemade on hand, make sure you use a high-ratio fruit preserve (ideally 100%) like Polaner or St. Dalfour, or the lines called "Simply Fruit" (Smuckers) and "Just Fruit" (Crofters) in a naturally tart flavour like grape, blueberry or black currant. But really, next year when fruit's in season? Make your own. Easiest, cheapest, most delicious toast / oatmeal / yogurt / ice cream / cake / etc. topping around.

Meanwhile, bake up a batch of bars, tuck them into your lunch, and hide them from the kids - they'll polish off the pan!

You have only 1 hour left until the entry deadline to win a $40 dinner for two at the Gladstone! Hurry for a chance at this awesome prize! Enter here. Winner (by random draw) will be announced tomorrow night. Good luck!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What I've Been Up To

This week marked quite possibly the busiest (yet most rewarding) period of my entire year. Like many, many years before this, I was again asked by the wonderful folks of the Autism Ontario chapter of Simcoe County to donate a cake for their gala's annual dessert auction. I not only agreed wholeheartedly (their cause is one I fully support) but I also offered to donate a second dessert - one that those with ASD who were on a gluten- and casein-free diet could enjoy without worrying. I don't have all the photos yet (to tell you the truth, even though they're due tomorrow I still need to put the final touches on the Stout Cake!) but this is what the last few days have been filled with - hence my absence from the virtual world:
GF/CF/nut free/vegan Orange Creme Cupcakes! Adapted from Gluten Free Goddess. Grand Marnier in the frosting FTW!

Sparkles. Lots of sparkles. And chocolate - in my hair, my skin, under my nails, you name it!

Filling with beer caramel, masking frosting (not shown) with Godiva liqueur. Drenched in bittersweet ganache and decorated with pretzel/gummi butterflies (dusted with sparkling sugar) trailing silver dragees around a sprinkle/sugar/chocolate rock meadow.

I'll fill you in on all the sweet (sweet!) details tomorrow, after I sleep off the sugar / caffeine / booze / chocolate high ;-).

However, I'm still shocked that so many people in the Greater Toronto Area (you know who you are!) are passing up one of the best Christmasy gift-type goodies out there. I mean, here I am with $40 of dinner for two at one of the swankiest artist-designed buildings in Toronto (which just so happens to be one of the coolest hotels I've seen) and there are only three entries! According to the know-it-all power that is Google, the T-dot's got 2 503 281 of us poor suckers living here... surely we could all use a free Gladstone meal?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's Gonna Be a Green (Tomato) Christmas

Wouldn't you love to have a nice dinner for two in downtown Toronto, without the price tag? Check out my Melody Bar giveaway, with it's $40 value! Hurry, the contest ends soon!

I guess that now Hallowe'en has come and gone for yet another year, the next holiday on our Canadian agenda is the dreaded Christmas. Not that the event it'self is bad - I mean, I'm all for spreading goodwill and seeing family on occasion, but the over-commercialization of it, like so many other holidays, is kind of jading me. I always get the feeling that I'm a total failure when it comes to giving gifts - without any income (not for lack of trying!) I have two options each season: not giving anything (and using the "I'm poor" excuse), or concocting a homemade something and hitting the dollar store for a cheap card. Given the vast amount of foodie nervous energy (not to mention free time) I have kicking around, can you guess what I tend to go for?

This year my mom got in on the decision-making action. Once the weather made it abundantly clear that the season of bright, ripe tomatoes was over (and my mincemeat for the year was made and frozen), I continued with my general cheapskate nature when I found Nigel Slater's article on "Green Tomato Recipes", which featured not the typical fried green application for the unripe fruit but a chutney. When my mom found out that green tomato chutney existed (she loves the fried greenies) she kept suggesting that she would love to have a good chutney to stir into rice and stir-fries. Apparently, that's her preferred use for the preserve!. So I paired Slater's recipe with fellow blogger Lara Ferroni's, adapted from a Sur la Table book. I used the glut of apples and tomatoes we had, and finished the last three Vidalia onions we had in our wine cellar from a mid-summer's (odd, to me) fundraiser at my stepdad's work. Home-grown habaneros replaced the jalapenos, and a mixture of Thompson raisins and prunes stood in for currants. Lots of sweet and savoury spices filled the pot as well.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saving the Peels

Being the apple-loving, apple-picking, apple-baking pair that my mom and I are, we are always left with a plethora of peels after a pie-making spree. In the "old days" when our Lab was still around, it was never a problem - she was our living, breathing garbage disposal! Nowadays, the compost bin gets packed to the brim with strips of perfectly flavourful apple peel that, to my mom and stepdad at least, are undesirable in pies, squares and applesauce. While I never minded a bit of peel in my baked goods (I thrive on the texture, which is probably why I love whole grain breads and cakes so much), I have no power to change the minds of the family. So I came up with a technique to save the peelings that would have a practical use down the line - dry them, then grind them down with good ol' table sugar. The result - a lightly apple-scented powdered sugar perfect for using in cookies or glazes (I suppose you could use it in pie too, but really, when your apples are this good you don't need any sugar!). I really hesitate to post this as a "recipe" because it is just so dead simple, but it's delicious and versatile - I'm hoping someone finds it of use!

What I Called "Newton's Apple"

Friday, October 28, 2011


If you've seen my whining opining on Twitter this week, you'll know that our trusty (albeit ancient) fridge/freezer bit the dust last Sunday night, thawing out all the contents by the time I discovered it (since the stepdad is not one to open the fridge at all). Mom was away on business for the week (she conveniently left before it died!) and so, with a fridge full of food that would never all fit into our smaller backup fridge and deep freeze, I resorted to three other methods of saving what I could: I resorted to the garage as a cold storage unit (thank God for the small miracle of the fridge death being in a cold month!), I made pasta sauce with all the produce I could find (including the last of our tomatoes) and I baked away the apple butter, egg whites, almonds and pineapple juice that were in the freezer. We still don't have a fridge, since Mom only came home last night, but the garage and rather packed cold bellar in our basement is doing an ample job for now.
I jokingly termed the a la minute cooking and baking that I did as working out of "stress-essity". It's always been true that my main way of managing stress of any kind was to cook or bake something, and being able to actually have a purpose to expend my nervous energy was awesome. So these two that I made on Day 1 of the non-fridge (there are more to come!) were just more stress-ipes, if you will.

As long as we have a new one within the next few days, no Hell will break loose. Otherwise, fitting two frosted cakes and a batch of cupcakes (for the charity auction I'm donating to again this year) in a tiny fridge holding twice it's intended food already will be very interesting!
By the way, are you in Toronto and want a $40 dinner for two, free? Take a look at my giveaway to enter! You have only one week left to get in on your chance, draw closes November 4!

Monday, October 24, 2011

All Thumb(print)s

Are you in Toronto and want a $40 dinner for two, free? Take a look at my giveaway to enter!

What kind of kid were you when it came to school lunches? Were you a baloney and mayo, like my old best friend? A Thermos stuffed with lukewarm mac n' cheese or pizza pockets like my sister? Or maybe you were like me, who adored a good PB & J? Maybe you were even lucky enough to be able to break out the nut butters in your lunchroom - up till grade 9, where I went to school nuts (or legumes, in the case of peanuts) of any kind were ixnayed due to allergies, so if I wanted my favourite nosh it had to be on the weekends or during the holidays.

It wasn't all that bad for me, considering that while I could enjoy spoonfuls of Kraft creamy right out of the jar, one of my friends and classmates wasn't so lucky. He taught me what an Epi-Pen actually was (my 7 year old self thought it was a newfangled marker) and made me realize that allergies weren't just something "everyone" gets when Spring comes around. Thankfully I never witnessed one of his reactions, but I'm fairly sure that's what got me into a "find out everything I can about everything" mindset when it came to medical things. I schooled myself with everything I had (we still have medicine books of mine in the basement) and always wanted to know why. Why do people get allergies, diseases, freckles, red hair, sunburns?

Well, I still don't have the answers to everything, but I do know some methods to bring back the love of life, especially in the kitchen. I was playing around with a fairly popular peanut butter cookie recipe (trying to use the last of the almond butter we had) and decided to try out a version of my old favourite sandwich in cookie form. I went all out on the almond flavour, with the almond butter, almond milk, almond extract and tossing in some ground almonds for kicks. The dough turned into a gluten-free and vegan gem, but I wanted to make it a bit more... moreish. So I dug into some of my homemade grape jam and turned the criss-crosses into thumbprints. Rather violently thumbed thumbprints, mind you. I had to laugh at myself - it had been years since I had made the last batch and apparently my thumbs are a bit bigger!
AB & J Thumbprint Cookies
Makes 40
3 tbsp ground flaxseed
1/2 cup warmed almond milk
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tbsp agave nectar (or honey if not vegan)
1/2 tsp stevia extract powder
5 oz (2/3 cup) shortening
4 oz (2/3 cup) stirred almond butter
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/3 cup ground almonds
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup glutinous rice flour
1 tbsp tapoica starch
1/2 tsp guar gum
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup jam or preserves of your choice (I used homemade Concord grape)
  1. Heat oven to 375 F and line baking sheets with parchment or silicone.
  2. In a small dish, whisk together flaxseed and almond milk. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together brown sugar, agave, stevia, shortening and almond butter.
  4. Add flax mixture and the extracts, beating well.
  5. Whisk together ground almonds, flours, starch, guar gum, nutmeg, baking soda and salt.
  6. Add to the creamed mixture and stir in well.
  7. Shape into small balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  8. Press your thumb or fingertip into the centre of each cookie and fill with jam
  9. Bake 10 minutes, then cool 10-15minutes on the sheets before carefully transferring to a cooling rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 118.4
Total Fat: 6.4 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 4.7 mg
Total Carbs: 15.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.6 g
Protein: 1.5 g


Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Melody (Bar) of Food - Free! (Giveaway!)

When was the last time you had a free meal? In this land of touch-and-go world economics, gas prices that make your head spin faster than the numbers on the pump and grocery bills that sometimes make me wonder if food is necessary at all, dining out is becoming a luxury quickly shunted to the back burner. A nice meal in a restaurant can drain your wallet, which for me kind of sucks the joy out of the whole experience, and when you're heading into the city for food it can be even worse.

But... what if I told you that you can have a delicious, eco-friendly, local producer-friendly dinner at one of Toronto's top-rated hotels, without the need to pick up the check? The folks at the Gladstone Hotel are kindly offering one of What Smells So Good's readers dinner for two (a $40 value), at their newly renovated Melody Bar!

The Gladstone, on the previously "divey" Queen West strip in the heart of the city, has come into it's own as a very artsy boutique hotel that has something for everyone. Along with 37 nifty-looking rooms and exhibits from local artists, the hotel boasts a Cafe with a varied menu - including vegan and gluten free options (and apparently one of the best brunches in the city) and of course the 122-year-old Melody Bar. Far from it's roots as a simple hangout and booze supplier, the Melody is open for dinner from 5-10, with a menu slightly smaller than the Cafe's but still just as inclusive and local. In fact, the vegetarian burger (a panko crusted, cheese stuffed portobello mushroom cap with lettuce, tomato & zucchini pickle) is one of their most popular offerings, and gluten-free bread is always available. Omnivores will appreciate the steak frites and the duck confit poutine, and everyone can dig into a luscious pecan-cherry crusted chocolate tart for dessert (which, enriched with buttery avocado, is pure vegan bliss).

So, how do you get in on this chance to win a $40 dinner for two at the Gladstone Hotel?? Here's what you need to do:

Be in Toronto within a month of the entry deadline of November 5, 2011 (when the voucher expires)
Leave a comment on this post telling me what your favourite thing about Toronto is!

For an extra entry:
follow me on Twitter and tweet about this contest (with a cc to me, @jo_jo_ba)


Subscribe to my blog feed via e-mail or your reader and leave a separate comment saying you have done so

You can of course do both, but I'll only be counting one extra entry. Sorry!

I look forward to hearing about your Toronto gems! Good luck to you all!