Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Triple Espresso Banana Cake

If you're hosting a NYE party (or simply staying up for the countdown), staying up all night can be tough - especially after some good food and a couple glasses of Champagne! By the time dessert rolls around (or if you're like us, the just-before-midnight sweet table), you need a hit of caffeine to get you through Auld Lang Syne.

Triple Espresso Banana CakeSo in order to bring the buzz to the masses (and have something sweet at the same time), I made a real coffee cake packed with three hits of coffee, a dash of cinnamon and rich bananas and yoghurt. Besides all that good stuff, I also cut down the simple carbs and sugar of the recipe (inspired by Food for Friends : Homemade Gifts for Every Season by Sally Pasley Vargas) with spelt flour and a "cup-for-cup" stevia baking blend. With a drizzle of bittersweet chocolate and/or a scoop of coffee ice cream, it's a way to bring the energy, health, sweetness and spice to the New Year! 

Toast Topper #38: Berbere White Bean Spread (or Dip)

Happy New Year's Eve! Whether you hold true to resolutions and good luck traditions or not, chances are you're going to be doing a little bit more entertaining before the holidays are over - and with the Superbowl coming up there is also the football parties to think of in terms of what to serve. Now crackers, crudites and chips are all perfect options for nibblies, but you have to serve them with something flavourful on top!

I'm personally a fan of spicy salsa and garlicky hummus , not that I would turn down a dollop of Three Chile Garlic Jam on top of a Havarti-topped Triscuit. We're hosting vegans for the first time at my stepdad's birthday party this weekend my mom wanted to have an option other than the sour cream and ranch-based dips everyone seems to bring. Sadly, the spice-loving stepfamily doesn't groove on the flavour of chickpeas, but I had a can of butter beans in my pantry that I knew would lend a nice creaminess to a dip without dairy. For the spicy heat, I went Ethiopian and tossed in a sizeable quantity of my Berbere Spice Mix, which not only amped up the flavour a ton but added a gorgeous colour too! All I can say is that it's a good thing this batch makes a few cups, because I don't know if it will stick around long enough for the party!

Berbere White Bean DipNo Berbere Spice Mix at home and no time or inclination to make a big batch? No problem: if you don't want extra spice kicking around, (even though it is delicious on almost everything), I've included the amounts of  each spice for 1 batch of dip below.

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dark Chocolate Cake Doughnuts for a New Year #SundaySupper

What's your New Year's Eve tradition? I've always been a homebody for the big ol' countdown - nobody believes that I've never been out to a party or nightclub ever, not the least being the biggest party night of the year! When I was young, we'd get to go to the doughnut shop and pick out one favourite item (whether it was a doughnut, muffin, ginormous cookie or cake slice) to savour when the sugar levels dropped around 10PM. After a dinner of paella (for my parents, my best friends (who pretty much lived at my house when I was in highschool) and I) and pasta (for my picky sister), we'd cluster around the TV for an evening of CBC comedy shows and play our way through a handful of board games until 11:59, when we'd all count down to the new year.

Of course, the holidays were never without indulgence here, and since my sister also detests pie, for Christmas dinner my mom would make up a batch of chocolate cake so she could have a slice (I know - my mom is awesome). The past few years have been both cake- and doughnut-less for New Years, but just because my mom didn't want to keep the spirit going doesn't mean I have to quit too! My sister has to go back to university soon after January begins, so I wanted to give my sister a little something special to enjoy while she was home for a few more days. Cake wasn't really an option - we don't have the fridge space (thanks, leftovers!) and besides, a frosted layered concoction doesn't travel too well packed amongst horseback riding gear, pet rats and fish and a load of schoolbooks!

So doughnuts it was. I knew my sister's favourite variety - Double Chocolate - would go over well, and it was also a flavour that is easy to sneak a bit of extra nutrition into. Not only did I bake my doughnuts (adapted from Shutterbean), but I made them with rich cacao, unrefined Demerara sugar, low-fat homemade yoghurt and white whole wheat flour. For a finishing touch I dunked the tops in melted bittersweet chocolate and sprinkled them with miniature chocolate chips. They got the seal of approval - a rarity with her! - and it's a good thing I made a small batch because they were inhaled by everyone in the family!

Double Chocolate Dip Donuts

This week, our #SundaySupper group are reflecting on the past year, making resolutions for the coming year, and sharing New Years traditions through our food. With Constance of The Foodie Army Wife as our host, we're all set to ring in 2014!

Breakfast

Appetizers & Snacks

Main Dishes & Sides

Desserts & Drinks
Sunday Supper Movement  
Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our#SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy! You can sign up by clicking here.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Leftover Lamb Stew

Near the end of the year, when we're trying to find space to put all our leftovers from Christmas Eve, Christmas dinner and my stepdad's birthday (three events one day after the other!), my mom and I will go through a "freezer purge". Everything that we can't identify within a minute or so gets tossed, along with things that have lived there since last Christmas and those that we know just won't get used. Some things that would normally be chucked, like vegetables from Sunday dinners (living in both the freezer and the fridge), I consolidate into a ziploc for stock-making. Cooked meat that nobody seems to want more of goes into another "soup and stew" bag, and between those two items and combined bags of frozen berries from the summer and rhubarb from the spring we finally have the ability to see the back of the chest freezer! 

One of the items that I pounced upon during this season's clean-out was a bag of cooked lamb souvlaki cubes left over from my stepbrother's birthday dinner. I knew we had lots of leftover beer, potatoes and carrots from the holiday potluck, plus the omnipresent onions and garlic in our pantry - all the key ingredients for a killer pot of warming stew. Because the meat was a little tough from being cooked, reheated, held in warming trays and then frozen, it took a few hours of slowly simmering it until it became fall-apart tender again (the beer definitely helped that out too!). Seasoning was simple thyme and pepper, perfect for the rustic texture of the dish. The pot emanated aromas of grandma's cooking from when I was a kid, combined with some of my dad's specialties and just a whiff of the Greek diner where our souvlaki originated from, and when served up it was nothing but a bowl of sheer, bone-warming comfort - perfect for these chilly Winter nights!

Leftover Lamb Stew

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Triplemint Meringues

Now that the bulk of the holiday insanity is over, I'm sure I'm not alone in saying phew! We made it through another year's festivities, are still here to gripe tell the tale, and it's long enough until the next holiday season that we can forget just how irritating Frosty and Jingle Bells can be. 

Like with all major cook-fests for special occasions, our home after the holidays is filled with leftovers upon leftovers. Our collection is not only cooked food remnants from my mom's spectacular meals, but bits and pieces of ingredients that weren't all quite used up. We have cartons of heavy cream, half blocks of cheese, various juices, part bottles of wine, and lots of egg whites. The bulk of our egg whites actually come from the manufacture of my mom's shortbreads (which use only an egg yolk), but we have the Challah and Brioche to think of as well, plus whatever cooking gets done for Christmas Eve. Luckily, mom usually just gives me the extra food to play with - a huge benefit since I don't usually buy eggs or much dairy for myself!

To use up this year's batch of egg whites, I modified a recipe I found in The 250 Best Cookie Recipes by Esther Brody when I was writing my review. I wanted to keep with the classic "Wintry" theme, but have a light little nibble to ease the family back down from the gluttony of the rich holiday fare. So, to add a bit of extra flavour to the plain meringues (notorious for tasting just sweet), I used a minty trifecta: dried peppermint, peppermint extract and mint chocolate chips! Whether you're having some after-Christmas guests or just want something to do with your leftovers, it's definitely going to be a holiday staple around here.

Triplemint Meringues

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mincemeat Loaf

Fruitcake is the great joke of the holiday season. Bricks, 6 pound behemoths, doorstops, you name it. I personally don't like the cakes, they have too much stuff going on for me to deal with (and they're almost always devoid of chocolate), but my family does - provided that they aren't leaden or packed with candied peel. Come to think of it, I don't know anyone who likes candied peel. Why bother putting it in to anything at all?

Anyways, like I said before, I set aside some of this year's homemade mincemeat to make this loaf. I can't quite call it a fruitcake, although it is a cake-like object with fruit, because making it is more reliant on a muffin-mixing process than a traditional creamed cake batter. This loaf is also relatively low fat (especially for a holiday dessert!) since there's no oil - just rich eggnog, egg whites and the richness of mincemeat for moisture and tenderness. However, the taste is just as fruity and spicy as any other holiday treat, and the hint of rum from the (Almost) Downton Abbey Mincemeat does come through a bit by playing with it's classical eggnog pairing. It's not a fancy loaf, nor is it overly pretty, but by gosh does it taste like the holidays!

Mincemeat Loaf

Monday, December 23, 2013

(Almost) Downton Abbey Mincemeat

Every year, one of my family traditions is to make mincemeat tarts for my dad. When I was growing up, making the pastries involved my mom's go-to Crisco crust and a store-bought jar of filling (with or without rum flavouring, whatever was on the shelf / cheaper), but eventually I took the reins and as a foodie with an overflowing garden and pantry, I took on the task of making the filling from scratch each summer. I've never been content to stick to just one version, since the beauty of mincemeat is that it really can be made with whatever you have on hand. Rhubarb. Green tomatoes. Beets and carrots. Cabbage. And now prunes, figs, grapes and... TVP.

(Almost) Downton Abbey Mincemeat
Yup, you read that right. It's only fitting, really, since the original mincemeat did include a "minced meat" of some kind (from veal to rabbit or even plain ol' suet). I tossed the TVP into this year's batch (inspired by and adapted from the The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook) more for texture and body than nutrition and tradition, since I opted to keep the batch nut-free (and vegan). You can always leave it out, but I promise you won't notice it's there - with all the rich, warming spices, fruit, molasses and (of course) a good glug of rum, all you'll notice is that it's Christmastime!

The mincemeat is also extremely versatile - there are the tarts and pies of course, but you can make Christmas Cake, muffins, and swirled yeast bread too! I even saved some of this year's batch for a fruitcake-like "loaf", and it is delicious!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Triple Chocolate Yeast Doughnuts

Who doesn't love a good doughnut? These days, the varieties are as endless as the imagination - far beyond your raised chocolate or old fashioned classics - and there is sure to be something to tempt you when you drop into the coffee shop. Growing up, I had three particular favourites from our local joint: chocolate-sour cream glazed, French crullers and the chocolate Boston cream. 

Now I know... Boston cream is not chocolate, and the filling of those yeasted sweet buns was not so much a rich, eggy custard as it was an instant pudding, but as a chocoholic the option of that sweet filling made decisions easy! The only thing about those (and any of the yeasted doughnuts I saw growing up) was that the filling and icing were the only chocolate elements. I always wanted to find a doughnut that was chocolate through and through, from the dough to the glaze, but I never found one. 

Instead, I made my own - using a fairly basic Boston Cream Doughnut recipe for the base recipe, I added cocoa to a mixture of whole grain flours, Pure Via Turbinado and Stevia Blend, Amoré Almonds + Dairy beverage and camelina oil for a uniquely nutty, slightly sweet and very tender baked Bismarck. The plain puffs cried out for a rich, more flavourful filling than my childhood's pudding, and luckily I had both Date Fudge and Chocolate Sweet Potato Frosting on hand from chocolate-making to fit the bill nicely. Finally, I melted down some stevia-sweetened dark chocolate with and coconut oil for their chocolate "caps", and topped them off with a dusting of sprinkles. As you can see, I need to replenish my sprinkle supply... all I had were Halloween ones!

Double Chocolate Yeast Doughnuts

Do you have a soft spot for doughnuts? What's your favourite kind?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Date Fudge (and filled chocolates!)

The holidays are filled with indulgence - those decadent truffles, chocolate-hazelnut balls, rich breads, fruitcake and cookies of all kinds are everywhere! While they are delicious and a perfect special-occasion treat, they definitely don't do our bodies any favours... nor do they exactly help our eternal New Years' goals of being healthier and losing weight!

Date Fudge FillingThat said, if I had to choose just one indulgence to enjoy over the holidays, it would be chocolate. I am a "dark" lover all the way, so I could justify mowing through a few Ghirardelli Twilight Delight bars over a week or two under the pretense of using them for antioxidant therapy... right? I'm really not a fan of the saccharine milk stuff playing the part of chocolate, so the more plain old cocoa I can finagle into a bar or cake the better. When I finally got around to making this year's batch of filled chocolates (new fillings every year are becoming a signature trend with me), I not only whipped up a batch of Espresso Fudge Filling, but an equally rich, sweet and fudgy filling from Back to Her Roots that just so happens to be sugar free, a source of fruit and other vital micronutrients too!

Date - Fudge Filled ChocolatesThis creamy, thick spread is perfect for filling cookie sandwiches and layer cakes, spreading onto cupcakes and brownies or even smearing onto a nice grainy piece of toast. With no fat or sugar added, it's surprisingly light for being so lush! To keep with the "healthy" theme I used my favourite stevia sweetened dark chocolate bar for the shell and filled little take-out ketchup cups instead of standard chocolate moulds for more "filling" space. Nobody who tastes the finished product believes its vegan, gluten free, sugar free and made with nature's candy instead of the refined stuff usually found at the store.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday (and Anyday) Cooking with Gay Lea

Mom's Famously Fabulous Shortbread
My Mom's Fabulous Shortbread
Do you have a holiday cookie tradition at home? Around here, December means shortbreads - and between gifting and eating, we can easily burn through 7 (double) batches of cookies between December first and January 31st. Now, our family is pretty simple when it comes to our shortbreads - butter, icing sugar, flour and an egg yolk are all we need for perfection. Of course, shortbreads are nothing without butter, and a lot of it (those aforementioned batches of cookies use up 7 lbs)! Over the years, we've tried different kinds based on availability and price, but we always seem to come back to the classic salted variety from Gay Lea. It not only packs our cookies with flavour, but has featured in many other recipes on this blog, from sweet to savoury, holiday breakfast brioche to Sunday night dinner and (especially) birthday desserts!

You may remember back in 2010 that I featured some amazing recipes from Gay Lea right before the holidays. Well this year, the Ontarian butter-makers are back - with a spiffy recipe website and their yearly contest! While my family is hard pressed to eat anything but my mom's shortbreads at the holidays (even my cookies are passed up!), that doesn't mean those on my giftee list miss out! There are so many delectable-looking things on the recipe site that I wouldn't even know where to start, except that I saw Butter Tart Shortbread Bars - one (of my many) kryptonite desserts listed. I haven't made them yet, but they are for sure on my shortlist! Other honourable mentions my family picked out were Herbed Cottage Cheese Primavera with Pasta, Light and Luscious Pasta Toss, and the Heritage Triple Butter Sticky Cinnamon Buns.

For the holidays, Asiago and Prosciutto Shortbread Crackers make a great appetizer, or you can cap off a meal with the decadent Chocolate Candy Cane Cheesecake. With the kids out of school for the holidays, Winter Wonderland Snowman Shortbreads make for a fun afternoon too! I know - how can you possibly choose?


Of course, Gay Lea is more than just butter (although if I had to choose, it would be my favourite product). The company also manufactures cottage cheese, sour cream, whipped cream, lactose free "Lacteeze" and Ivanhoe cheese. What are you waiting for? There's a world of possibilities waiting for you to discover.

Crispy Cinnamon Twists
Crispy Cinnamon Twists (Coming Soon!)
 
Citrus and Herb Roast Chicken
Citrus and Herb Roast Chicken
Caramel-Almond Latte Ricotta Cookies
Caramel - Almond Latte Swirls (Coming Soon!)
Ricotta Cookies with Peanut-Nutella Swirl
Nutella - Peanut Swirls (Coming Soon!)

Cracker Jack Bread
Cracker Jack Bread (Coming Soon!)

Holiday Brioche
 Note: I was provided vouchers for free Gay Lea products for the purposes of this review. All opinions and photos expressed on this website are my own, however I am not responsible for the opinions expressed on the linked sites. I received no monetary compensation for my participation.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mocha - Nola

I'm an "early" person - if you talk to me before 3PM, chances are I'll be coherent and able to complete tasks with some sort of efficiency. Other members of my family (and most of my friends), however, are so far in the opposite camp that if you call them before 2PM on a Saturday you get sent straight to voicemail. My stepdad is positively hopeless without his morning coffee, and even my early-riser mom needs her java before beginning the daily grind.

I may not need a cuppa to start my day, but that doesn't mean I don't like the occasional mug (or vat... you know, depending on the schoolwork load at the time) in my day. I prefer it black and strong, but my mom likes a little chocolate with hers... and really, can there be a better pairing than chocolate and coffee? When I was planning my "granola gifts" for this year's holiday boxes, I definitely wanted to pay tribute to the heaven-sent pairing, as well as give a nod to the meal where most of the caffeine is consumed - breakfast! So I created a bitter-sweet melange of breakfast cereal, oats, wheat bran, three hits of coffee and chocolate covered raisins that baked up crunchy, chunky and perfect for mixing into yoghurt, topping berries, munching out of hand or filling tortillas spread with almond butter (breakfast of champions, I tell you). I even came up with a great way to present this creation as a gift - use an empty coffee can! You know you have one... and if not, you need to try harder ;-).

What fills your cup to start the day? Are you a coffee or a tea guzzler? Hot lemon water? Nothing 'till noon? Let me know!

Mocha - Nola

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Strawberry Preserves with Grandpa's Sherry (Toast Topper #37) #12WksXmasTreats

For the last recipe in my list of contributions to the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats hosted at Meal Planning Magic, I wanted to share probably the most personal, special preserve I made this year. My grandfather was, in his own right, a good cook - especially for his generation of men who were generally happy to sit back and let the women of the house fix dinner. Along with his fantastic scrambled eggs, curry, and hummus, Grandpa also made his own (rather potent) sherry. For years, the liquor was referred to as the family "cure all" medicine - a shot of it (or a tablespoon for the kids) would basically scare any cold or flu from your system before it even hit your stomach!

It's been almost a year and a half since Grandpa passed away, but our liquor cabinet is still packed with a few bottles of his famous booze. In honour of him, I decided to make use of it in a few jars of strawberry preserve that I'm giving to family this Christmas as a way to rekindle some good memories around the Christmas tree. Along with the sherry, the loose-set jam I adapted from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving: Over 300 Recipes to Use Year-Round by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard is comprised of strawberries macerated overnight in sugar and cooked with a hint of vanilla and lemon juice. A spoonful of this on a slab of his favourite Challah on Christmas morning would be just what he would do, but it is equally at home on ice cream, pancakes, oatmeal or yoghurt.

Berry Preserves with Grandpa's Sherry

So this is for you, Grandpa... and for everyone out there with memories of someone special. Have a Merry Christmas - and enjoy the other contributions to the #12WksXmasTreats below!


Monday, December 9, 2013

Red Velvet Latte Mix

It's been ages since I've had a real latte. I'm not talking about the syrupy sweet, cream-laden confections called lattes in the popular coffee shops, but the simple espresso + milk version you can find in Italy. To me, a coffee drink should taste like coffee first, with nuances of other elements as accents. 

I had been kicking around the idea of a red velvet latte drink ever since the "holiday coffees" started coming out in the cafes around here. I wanted it to be full of espresso flavour, but also have a touch of tang, a hint of sweet cocoa and (of course) the vibrant red hue of the popular dessert - and after testing, tweaking and more tasting I finally found the perfect combination of ingredients for an instant latte mix. It can't be easier - whisk in some boiling water (or water and hot milk if you prefer) for an instant cup of (sugar-free) "grown up" cake batter. If you must, a dollop of whipped cream transforms a brunch delight into a decadent afternoon or dessert treat. 

Red Velvet Latte Mix

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Baked Red Velvet Mochi Doughnuts

Sometimes you just can't pass up a doughnut. For me, my resolve becomes wafer thin once I see one of the ring-like treats that sings of fudgy chocolate, dense cake and a not-too-sweet finish. These gluten free doughnuts are all that and more - think of a dense, chewy brownie, with a slightly tangy finish and just the barest of red tints.

Unlike most doughnuts of this calibre, Rachael's (and mine) are baked, which also prevents the nasty oil-film phenomenon that can happen when your deep fryer is just slightly off temperature.  Being moist and rich, they also store better than regular baked doughnuts (about two days in the fridge), but something tells me that's not going to be a problem - especially if you bake a batch for the next holiday potluck!

Red Velvet Mochi Donuts

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Caramel Peanut Butter Fudge

I come from a family of bona fide peanut butter lovers. My dad and grandpa are clearly the biggest fans in my awareness of the family history, but neither my mom nor I would pass up a creamy spoonful of the stuff if offered! When it comes to confections, if we can't have chocolate in the mix for some reason, there had better be a peanut butter option - and since not everyone on my holiday gift list is as much of a chocoholic as us, when I set out to make the candies for this year's holiday baskets I knew what to focus on for my alternate!

Caramel Peanut Butter Fudge

While I've had mixed results with "real" fudge over the years, I think I found a definite winner with this combination. First, the body of the candy is full of rich dark brown sugar, chopped vanilla caramels and creamy peanut butter. There isn't a single marshmallow or chocolate chip in sight. Then, for an extra layer of creamy nuttiness, I opted to use Amoré Almonds + Dairy Beverage. Between the Amoré and the caramels, the cooked mixture turned into a creamy, firm and perfectly sliceable pan of deliciousness that stayed soft enough to melt in your mouth but hard enough to hold its shape when left out of the fridge for an hour.

Caramel Peanut Butter FudgeAfter tasting the finished product (or at least the trimmings) Mom and I agreed it was mighty good candy - but if you coated it in dark chocolate it would be nothing short of divine! What do you think - are you a chocolate die-hard or can you swing to another candy camp?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pink Popcorn Candy #12WksXmasTreats

Do you know of (or remember) Lucky Elephant Popcorn? If you grew up in Canada in the 60s, you'll remember the quaint little boxes of the vividly pink, sweet candy confection with the circus elephant on the front, and you may have even enjoyed some after saving your pocket money (was I the only one to do that?).

Pink Popcorn CandySadly, it's really hard to find - at least in the iconic boxes (I saw some unbranded pink popcorn in bulk today though!). I had all but forgotten about it when I saw this post on Cravings of a Lunatic which featured my beloved treat! Armed with my candy thermometer, freshly popped popcorn and a whim to make something both classic and modern, I began to take the whimsy of the original candy coating and give it a bit of a twist. Being that it was already different by being pink, I kept feeling like it needed a different flavour than just plain sweet. I grabbed a bottle of cherry candy flavouring (it was an appropriately "pink" flavour to me) and stirred it in, as well as using vanilla-infused sugar for an extra boost. To save space in my gift boxes (and for something new and unexpected), I processed the popcorn into crumbs before adding the candy. Spread out onto a baking sheet, it set overnight before I dried it out just a little bit more in the oven. You don't have to do that last step, but if you're going to store it for any length of time (or want to save yourself some seriously sticky fingers), it's worth it. Just break it up after cooling and you have yourself a hand-held taste of nostalgia!

We're almost at the end of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats hosted at Meal Planning Magic. Shocking, isn't it? 



Monday, December 2, 2013

Cream Cheese Granola Scrolls

Is there anyone who doesn't like cinnamon rolls? Well, maybe, but I can tell you they are definitely in the minority around here. I love biting into a warm, spicy roll with gooey icing or a sticky glaze and being flooded with buttery, cinnamonny, bready joy. My only issue when it comes to the great thing that is the cinnamon roll is that they get dried out quickly - regardless of how much butter, cream and eggs you throw into them. I discovered a counterintuitive secret from King Arthur Flour, which I wanted to try, but I had a "must make" item on my list from years ago that I wanted to make badly. I found myself with some extra homemade granola and cream cheese after the Thanksgiving meal-fest and immediately marked them for these from Brown Eyed Baker.

Cream Cheese Granola ScrollsWhat made those cinnamon rolls so unique and obsession-worthy? The dough is laminated puff-pastry style - not with butter, but with cream cheese! More creamy, cheesy flavour? Yes please!

So I took the original and ran with it - using Pure Via Turbinado and Stevia Blend packets for the sugar, extra cream cheese in the dough and a touch of whole wheat flour for flavour and texture (as well as a touch of nutrition!). Instead of the nuts in Michelle's filling, I used my granola for a nut-free crunch (since I was serving to mixed company I didn't know who was allergic). I mixed up a honey glaze in place of the more traditional cream cheese icing for a little something different, which slightly soaked into the bread in the hour after baking and kept the buns moist, gooey and definitely craveable. 

Cream Cheese Granola ScrollsI don't know why it took me so long to get these on my plate, but I am so glad I finally jumped aboard the cinnamon bun bandwagon! What's your favourite type of cinnamon roll - nutty, plain-jane, thick with frosting or humbly glazed? Let me know in the comments!

Shared with YeastSpotting

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Banana Butterscotch Muffin-Cake - You're Covered this #SundaySupper

Sometimes you need to pull a rabbit out of a hat when it comes to entertaining. Unexpected guests (or unexpected sleepovers), allergies or picky eaters and (the worst thing) running out of dessert or a snack with tea can all throw a wrench into the smoothly planned events packing the next couple of weeks. Then there are the times where you yourself are run so ragged that you forget you need to eat, not just shop, prep, cook and serve!

Butterscotch Banana Muffin - Cake

This muffin-cake is my answer to those dilemmas this holiday season. The recipe, which I developed when cooking for a small school last year, makes a lot - but it's relatively cheap, healthy and freezes like a dream while being delicious for brunch, snacking or dessert (especially paired with a tangy Raspberry Compote). If you know you'll be hosting at all hours of the day (and night) as well as stuffing your family into the car for the annual road trip to Great-Aunt Sally's, divide the batch between a muffin tin and a 9x13 so that you have both portable, "breakfasty" muffins and a base for a dressier dessert. Plus, since it's a banana dessert, it's perfect for all those leftovers from the fruit bowl that were too soft for the fruit salad.

This #SundaySupper, We've Got You Covered when it comes to all your menu dilemmas! From dishes cooked in covered pots, cloaked in sauce or topped with pastry to "how do I do... (or deal with...)" answers, this week will definitely keep your cooking sheltered from the bitter cold outside! This event is being hosted by DB aka Foodie Stuntman. Thanks DB!

Sunday Supper Movement

Covered Appetizers and Entreés
 
Covered Desserts
 
Not Sure What To Do? We Got You Covered

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy! You can sign up by clicking here.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Sinus Clearing Thai Turkey Soup

I hope everyone south of the border had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday, filled with family, friends and food! Now, I know that food is probably the last thing you want to think about - especially leftover turkey - but considering it's the grand pooh-bah of shopping days today a quick meal packed with handy, healthy ingredients is the perfect thing to savour after the hubbub. 
Sinus Clearing Thai Turkey Soup

Of course, a regular old turkey noodle soup is fine and dandy... but if I just ate my way through a weekend of poultry, stuffing (or not... ew), mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, I want something a bit less traditional. Something exotic, spicy and lighter-textured. Something like a brothy Thai-inspired rice soup bowl.

Not only is this a great soup for using up leftover turkey and carrots, but it's a perfect menu fixture for this cold and flu season. I don't know about you, but in my experience working in the classroom I have seen a few rounds of the Fall / Winter snifflies so far, and undoubtedly there will be more to come. With all the vitamins and minerals packing these (gluten free) bowls - from the shredded heirloom carrots and roasted skinless turkey to a handful of garlic cloves, minced kale, coconut water, dried spices and black rice - your body will be getting a warm hug from the inside at the same time as an all-natural flu shot! For extra "insurance" (and my personal favourite culinary decongestant), I jacked up the zip with some of our homegrown Thai chiles. Those will definitely wake you up from your turkey nap - and scare off any colds lurking in your midst!

Shared with Waste Not Want Not Wednesday and Gluten Free Fridays

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Apple Cheesecake Caramels #12WksXmasTreats

I've always been a sucker for cheesecake. I remember the first time I snuck a taste of my mom's cherry-topped slice at a restaurant - my eight year old self thought I had found nirvana. Since then, I've tried many variations on the theme... New York style with all sorts of fruit toppings, caramel brownie (my favourite), chocolaccino, Italian ricotta-marscapone mixtures and even the (not so good) low fat "Weight Watchers" type with pureed cottage cheese. When I started to bake my own cheesecakes, I discovered a "secret" ingredient to prevent cracking and maintain the luxuriously silky texture (silken tofu) and I've never looked back.

The past couple of years, though, I've been turning my attention to the realm of candy-making - mostly due to the host of inspiration I found when reviewing The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook. It was this book that drove me to make Nut and Seed Nougat for the holidays last year, and more recently gave me the impetus to get messy with Soft and Chewy Chocolate Candies. Eventually I got around to scanning the plethora of caramel options, causing me to find their ricotta-laced variation. With the abundance of apples (and lack of the original figs) in our kitchen, I remembered the Apple Butter Cheesecake from a few years ago and decided to try recreating it - in a bite sized, chewy caramel form.
Apple Cheesecake Caramels
I began by making a batch of Richer Ricotta, which I then pureed with buttermilk powder, salt, sugar and an ingredient normally foreign to my kitchen - Baboo milk from Natrel. This dairy product is essentially a super-fortified milk, containing cream, whey powder, milk and extra vitamins, and comes in a tetra-pak. It's billed for children transitioning from formula to standard dairy milk, and when I received a coupon for a free box in the mail I was surprised (not having, nor planning to have, children) but decided to check it out. The fat content was slightly lower than heavy cream but high enough to stay homogeneous with heat, so I picked up a container to cook with. I have to say, it made some darn good caramels - and never risked scorching like it's pure dairy cousins.

The caramel mixture also got kisses of flavour from local honey, salted cultured butter and a concentrated apple flavour, which cooked to a rich toffee brown before coating home-dried apples and being poured onto a graham cracker base. The finished candy was a blend of crisp and chewy, sweet and tangy, fruity and creamy - a perfect harmony for Fall which made it into my Halloween "loot bags" for the teachers at school and one that I'm going to do again for our Christmas dessert table!

There are only three weeks left in the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats hosted at Meal Planning Magic - yikes! Be sure to check out all the offerings from the season - you're sure to find a few favourites!



Apple Cheesecake Caramels

Monday, November 25, 2013

Yoghurt Drops (for Rodents)

With all the treats and delicious food that comes our way this time of year, it's easy to forget that our pets deserve a little something in their stockings too! For us, we have one "group" stocking for all 10 animals (not counting fish) - we have 3 cats, a dog and my sister's 6 adorable rats.


Yes, rats. Most people think the idea of rats is creepy or weird, but they are friendly and have personalities that are more complex than some people I know!

Now, my sister being who she is, these are some pampered creatures. They go to the vet, have 2 cages (one in her "student" home, one in our living room), get special food and are even bathed! Of course, this all costs a pretty penny, and as a student she needs to save her cents! For the holidays, I decided to take on the task of making the furballs one of their favourite snacks - yoghurt drops. The rats love yoghurt in general (and it is quite cute to watch them eat it), and the drops are a sweet treat once in a while that they go nuts for!

If you have rodents, you know how expensive their treats can be - but for the price of a tub of Greek yoghurt (or even cheaper, homemade yoghurt), skim milk powder, gelatine and the crushed dregs of breakfast cereal, you can make your own. These stay shelf-stable if you take the dehydrator step, but if you don't have one, no worries - they keep perfectly fine in the freezer.

Yogurt Honey Drops (for Rodents)

Have you ever made your own pet treats? What pets do you keep at home?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Eggless Herb and Garlic Fresh Pasta for a Thankful #SundaySupper

Friends. Like the most precious of gems, true ones are hard to find, and harder to keep. Unlike cold stone though, friends can provide warmth, true happiness, a listening ear or a gentle, caring touch when the rest of the world is cold and grey. Unfortunately, you can't buy friend-surance, and you can't bribe a scorned past amigo to trust you again. I lost two of my best friends from highschool over one of the most inane pursuits of my life - a boy - thinking that they would always be there. Now, their absence is omnipresent and a reminder to cherish the ones you have as comrades. Love may be fleeting, but a friendship is like a garden. Nurture it and it stays beautiful, neglect it and it dies.

I suppose I shouldn't be overly shocked that I don't have many friends outside of the blogging realm. Food blogging is still somewhat strange to those around me, and people don't understand the passion for cooking that we share. That said, my blogging friends (like everyone in the #SundaySupper group) are an amazing network that I can only pray stays healthy and vibrant, and those who I've met in person are just as much so.

In terms of non-virtual human contact, I find it tricky. I'm not an overly extroverted person, and since I don't drink or party there aren't a whole lot of social avenues outside school that make sense. I managed to make a few great friends in my Montessori training, and in particular I owe not only my school success but my emotional benefit to one of them. It was for him that I made this batch of pasta dough - being an Italian food lover and a budding home cook with limited time and resources to buy more "gourmet" items like artisanal, preservative free pasta, I knew that this small gift of a herb and garlic laced dinner option would be appreciated. It is in no way equal to the benefits I've been given, but with luck our friendship will stay fast and I will be able to give back.

While our Canadian Thanksgiving was over a month ago, I believe that it isn't just one day that matters to give thanks, but every day. Not only do we have the luxury of living in a safe, warm and caring environment, but we have the chance to go to school, have careers, choose and practice our religious and lifestyle preferences, eat wholesome food (even to the point of too much at times) and realize our dreams. No matter how tough and unfair things seem on a given day, simply being alive is a gift.

Eggless Herb & Garlic Pasta

Our #SundaySupper group is giving thanks for what we have this week, and sharing tales of our good fortunes along with fare fit for the festive season. I suppose my pasta isn't really "dinner party" food (unless you're talking about the Italian Christmas Eve carbo-loading fest), but it is a great "make on the weekend and freeze or dry" ingredient for a fast, delicious and different dinner side after a day at the mall shopping for gifts. Paula of Vintage Kitchen Notes is our host this week - thanks Paula!

Appetizers
Harvest Soup from Bea of The Not So Cheesy Kitchen 
Horseradish Cranberry & Herbed Cheese Bites from Jen of Juanita's Cocina
Savory Rosemary Baklava with Brie from Christie of A Kitchen Hoor's Adventures
 
Savoury Breads & Stuffings
Cloverleaf Rolls from Micha of Cookin' Mimi
Freeze and Bake Buttermilk Biscuits from Stacy at Food Lust People Love
Picnic Roll from Linda of The Urban Mrs
Raspberry and Brie Crescent Rolls from Karen of In The Kitchen With KP
Cornbread Stuffing with Chorizo and Craisins from Isabel at Family Foodie
Easy Gluten-Free Corn "Bread" Stuffing from Laura at Small Wallet Big Appetite

Mains
Eggless Herb and Garlic Fresh Pasta from Sarah at What Smells So Good?
Honey Orange Turkey Breast from Cindy at Cindy's Recipes and Writings
Sides
Brussels Sprout Latkes from Susan atThe Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
Cheesey Scalloped Potatoes from Shaina at Take A Bite Out Of Boca
Cornucopia Sweet Potato Barley Salad from Wendy at The Weekend Gourmet
Creamy Scalloped Corn from Alaiyo at Pescetarian Journal
Fried Smashed Potatoes from Renee at Kudos Kitchen by Renee
Grandpa's Simple Stuffing from Bobbi at Bobbi's Kozy Kitchen
Green Beans with Pecans and Cranberries from Tara at Noshing With The Nolands
Honey and Cinnamon Glazed Sweet Potatoes from Jennifer at Peanut Butter and Peppers
Italian American Turkey Dressing from Anne at Webicurean
Loaded Mashed Potato Bake from Lori at Foxes Love Lemons
Maple Sweet Potatoes with Browned Butter Pecan Topping from Brianne at Cupcakes and Kale Chips
Mushroom and Barley Casserole with Bacon, Gruyere and Spinach from Heather at Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Blue Cheese from Sarah at Curious Cuisiniere

Desserts & Sweet Breads
Almond Brioche Sticky Buns from Alice at Hip Foodie Mom
Baked Caramel Apple Cider Donuts from Nicole at Daily Dish Recipes
Black Bottom Banana Cream Pie from Cheryl at Hot Momma's Kitchen Chaos
Blue Ribbon Meyer Lemon Mascarpone Cheesecake from Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious
Bourbon Pecan Pie from Julie atThe Texan New Yorker
Chocolate Moussecake from Liz at That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Cinnamon Rolls from Conni at The Foodie Army Wife
Gingered Butternut Squash Tart from Renee of Magnolia Days
Hanukkah Lemon Star Cookies from Shannon at Killer Bunnies, Inc
Manischewitz, Cranberry Double Holiday Donuts from Kim at Ninja Baking 
Mini Maple Sweet Potato Tarts from Holly at Mess Makes Food
Mini Pumpkin Pies from Nichole at Casa de Crews
Mom's Custard Pie from Courtney at Neighborfood
No Bake Pumpkin Spiced Cheesecake from Tammi of Momma's Meals
Plum and Blackberry Crumble from Katy at Happy Baking Days
Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake from Heather at girlichef
Salted Butterscotch Pudding from Jane at Jane's Adventures in Dinner
Salted Caramel Apple Pie from Laura at Pies and Plots
Sweet Potato Pecan Gingersnap Pie from Paula at Vintage Kitchen Notes

All American Wine Pairing Guide for Being Thankful #SundaySupper  from Martin at ENOFYLZ Wine Blog

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter tonight - we tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world! Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET.  Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag, and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat.

Also, check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fresh Egg Pasta

Few things are as simple and perfect as real, fresh pasta. However, most of us don't have the luxury of nonnas slaving away in our kitchens every afternoon, churning out linguine, spaghetti and tagliatelle in time for us to make dinner. Most of us Westerners (me included) also abuse our pasta by drowning it in sauce and/or cheese - meaning the fine qualities of an artisan pasta are lost anyway.

All this means that when the opportunity to experience the process of making, cooking and eating homemade noodles arises, it is something to savour. The flavour of the silky smooth semolina and egg dough is unlike anything you can buy (fresh or dried), and after the briefest of boils it only takes a mere drizzle of flavourful extra virgin olive (or camelina) oil, maybe a grind or two of black pepper and a clove of minced garlic to achieve the pinnacle of taste. Anything heavier than a light (light!) tomato concasse or a true (i.e. cream-free) carbonara preparation would smother the tender noodles and kill their unique golden hue and rich flavour.

While pasta is inherently simple to make (I'm not talking about the Chinese lye-water noodles, mind you), it does take time and patience. These eggy strands can be tricky (and sticky) to get through the pasta machine (mine couldn't get the dough narrower than linguine), and like pie crust and cookies the mixture is best worked with after a rest period of at least an hour, preferably overnight. However, it is that kind of care that comes through in the finished product... and how can you go wrong with something that tastes like your heart and soul went into it?

Fresh Egg Pasta