Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Update Your Readers!

If you haven't been following the happenings with Google products over the past few months, you may be unaware that Google Reader has gone the way of the dodo bird. Never fear! You can still follow What Smells So Good? on Bloglovin. Hope to see you there!

*Note - I am not switching blogging platforms, you'll still be able to find my "live" posts right here on What Smells So Good?. RSS feeds from Blogger won't be going anywhere, you just need to make sure your feed reader clients are active (i.e. Live Bookmarks in FireFox). Thanks to David for the heads up, check out his post for a LOT of useful info.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Sesame Sourdough Bagels

Some days I wish I could claim to live in one of the "great cities" - one that people from out of country (or even out of province) actually know of, like Seattle, San Francisco or even Toronto "proper". Not many people know of my little city of Oshawa, and even fewer know of Ajax - the town I grew up in. I have been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit, at least through Canada and the northern States, and one of my favourite "foodie" cities is one of the oldies but goodies: Montréal.

Between the super high-end restaurants (i.e. Le Local) and the cheap(er) and cheerful delis like Schwartz's, there is something for every palate to be found in the Montréal area. But I have to say (and New Yorkers will hate me for this) that what steals my heart every trip is the quintessential Montréal bagel. Dense, chewy and sweet, a classic from St-Viateur fills the void at 8AM much better than any continental breakfast ever could - and on my childhood car trips out east, they did. Montréal bagels are also special thanks to their slightly smoky, charred flavour and aroma from the super-hot wood ovens, and it is that combined with the bitter-sweet malt (or honey) water bath that set them apart (and IMHO, above) bagels anywhere else... yes, even Toronto "Montréal-style"delis.

I can't recreate my favourite Francophonie rings at home, as much as I would love to. That would require substantial re-construction of the kitchen or the building of a wood oven out back, neither of which I could afford nor would be approved by our municipality. That said, I do add barley malt to the dough and boiling water in these, and for that "smoky" nuance I use a touch of smoked salt. My favourite bagels are definitely sourdough-based, so I adapted this one from Bread Without Butter to suit my tastes (and the passion my mom has for whole grains and flaxseed), adding buttermilk for extra tangy good measure. Boiled and crusted in both white and black sesame seeds, they baked up golden brown, puffy but with that perfect chew and density. Being bagels, they freeze and thaw exceptionally well, and if you slice them before tossing the Ziploc into the freezer you're only minutes away from breakfast midweek.

Shared with YeastSpotting

Sesame Sourdough Bagels

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Nathan's Cookies for a #SundaySupper Picnic

While I love most of the kids at my school, there are a few that I really connect with. Mostly, it's because I see pieces of myself in their young personalities - be it the tortured, depressed spirit of the bullied kid, the withdrawn, introverted bookworm or the child who just wants someone to understand that their problems are real to them - no matter how inane they may look to an outsider.

One of these "connections" I have is a very special one to me, with a child named Nathan. Without delving into too much gory detail, he is a very withdrawn boy more at home in the corner with his nose in a book than in the middle of a group activity. He's quiet and hardly ever speaks to anyone, which makes him the target of pranks and offhand "jokes"... things that to outsiders shouldn't be a "big deal" but are absolutely devastating when they happen to you personally. Some of his "quirks" (such as refusing to drink milk or freaking out at the thought of cheese in his meal) drive the teachers to distraction, and unfortunately the outcome is usually that Nathan is told to "get over it".

My kitchen at work is now almost a "therapist's office" - a safe haven for both students and teachers alike. I get the kids who were angrily throwing materials in the classroom, and the ones in tears for reasons they refused to say. Likewise, I've had teachers on the verge of exploding with frustration and those so stressed out about their future that they were unravelling. It was in my kitchen that I had a chance to work with Nathan one-on-one, through good times and bad - and because I saw so much of my own withdrawn childhood in him we now connect in a way that neither annoys me nor frustrates him.

Nathan's CookiesOne of these "sessions" came about while I was baking off a batch of cookie dough for the toddler class - a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that came from my mother and had never yet failed me. The comforting, familiar smell wafting through the school had a calming effect on almost everyone, and for an hour at least things seemed a bit quieter at "the zoo". When Nathan came in (supposedly for a glass of water, but I have my doubts), he was so enthralled by the thick, chewy, sprinkle-filled cookies that he quietly, but determinedly, asked me if I would please make them for his class soon. And I did... the next day.

I could have called these magical treats "Mrs. Mac's Cookies" as well, as the same recipe became the first cookie that teacher (a brilliant woman of almost 60) ever made! Simple enough for two year old's tastebuds and complex enough for the more sophisticated adults, a multigenerational, multicultural snack perfect for parties, packed lunches and picnics is easier than ever - and you don't have to be the popular, athletic kid to enjoy them.

This week's #SundaySupper is taking place in a grassy, sunny park on a comfy gingham blanket... that's right, we're having a picnic! There are lots of recipes in our picnic basket this week for some seriously good, perfectly portable food. Check out all the treats below! The event this week is hosted by Katy of Happy Baking Days - thanks Katy! 

Salads and Slaws:


Sandwiches and Mains:


Desserts:


Drinks:


You can join in the chat on Twitter too: we’ll be tweeting throughout the day and sharing all of our picnic recipes. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm EST. To join in, just follow the #SundaySupper hashtag, and remember to include it in your tweets. You can also check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more delicious recipes and photos.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Homemade Egg Replacer

If you're familiar with the world of egg-free baking, no doubt you know about the wonderful magic powder that is Ener-G egg replacer. Many variations of it exist from different brands, but in general egg replacer is a combination of starches and leavening intended to replace the binding and small amount of leavening that a "normal" egg provides. What I like about"the original" is that it's hypoallergenic, being not only egg-free, but gluten-, wheat-, casein-, corn-, dairy-, yeast-, soy-, tree nut-, peanut-, sodium- and cholesterol-free as well. It's also colour- and texture-free, so unlike flax or chia seed, tender and light-coloured items like vanilla cake aren't affected. That means that (with the exception of the single nightshade allergy I've come across), I can use it for mixed company without worrying about aggravating any preexisting problems.

Egg ReplacerThe major downside to any of the egg replacer powders is the same as with any specialty item - the cost. Ener-G is hard to find in my area, and when I do come across it the price is usually marked up so much that the relatively good value (one box makes about 100 "eggs") is diminished. Thankfully, I can now make my own (allergy-free!) egg replacement powder for next to nothing! I came across Whole New Mom's Do It Yourself Egg Substitute on Pinterest and with my supply of the brand-name stuff running low decided to give it a go with my  Corn-Free Baking Powder.

This stuff works just as well as the "regular" kind, with all the same allergy-free bells and whistles. I tested it out in a batch of sugar cookies I was working to veganize as well as a chocolate chip muffin recipe calling for two eggs, and both came out identically to when I was adding the "real deal". If you're planning on baking for a specialty diet (or a large group with unknown allergies), this is your "golden ticket"!

Shared with Wellness Weekend and Gluten Free Friday

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Corn-Free Baking Powder

I pride myself on being able to accommodate almost any allergy I come across in my baking or cooking. Granted, I've never been faced with the situation of someone allergic to all grains, sugars, eggs, dairy, legumes, fruit, nuts and vegetables all at once - in that case, I'm waving the white flag and serving water. But in general, I can do the "Top 8" at the drop of a hat, and can even make something for a vegan celiac individual. 
 
Corn-Free Baking Powder
Although it's not one of the "Top 8", corn is one of those foods that seems to be increasingly allergenic. It always catches me off guard though, because it's in so many things. Far from simply being a starchy side dish for a backyard BBQ or creating the toothsome qualities of cornbread, the yellow plant has been modified, milled, ground, de-hulled, gelatinized and otherwise adulterated to within an inch of it's being. It takes careful label reading (and education) to avoid it in anything pre-made, which unfortunately includes a good deal of baking ingredients. 

Tired of mixing up tiny batches of acidulated baking soda whenever I had to bake for corn allergies (or people avoiding it for GMO reasons) and loath to pay through the nose for yet another specialty item, I finally just mixed up a big batch to keep in the pantry. While "regular" baking powder relies on cornstarch for bulk and anti-caking, I went the corn and gluten free route with a mix of arrowroot starch and white rice flour. 
 
I actually like this blend better than store bought - it has a finer texture and mixes into ingredients better, without the clumping I've experienced with cornstarch formulae. If you don't have arrowroot starch (I got mine at the local Bulk Barn), try an equal portion of potato or tapioca starch instead.

 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Thai Vegetable-Peanut Noodles

It's no secret that our (very Caucasian) family loves the flavours of Asian cuisine. Our favourites vary from the Westernized versions of sushi and Chinese food (my stepdad) to relatively spartan noodles, chicken and broccoli with soy sauce (my sister), to my favourite Japanese maki and salads and my mom's passion for Thai fare. Generally, the closer the meal is to the "authentic" cultural way of eating, the simpler it is - and the philosophy of balance reigns. 

Nowhere is this idea more important than in the stir-fry. Take these Thai Vegetable-Peanut Noodles - a medley of textures, colours and flavours, none of which overpowers the other. The simple act of tossing the vegetables and pre-cooked noodles in a wok and dressing with a pantry-made sauce is hidden by the kaleidoscope of tastes each mouthful exudes. Because of this basic but effective cooking method, it's possible to bring any amount or type of produce, protein and noodle to the party, allowing the resulting dish to take on a new life each time you make it. During a particularly lean week (say, the last few days before payday), chop up a 99-cent block of tofu and saute it first (like any meat), or eschew the added protein and revel in the peanut-egg sauce, noodle and bulky vegetables' satiating power. Got a raise at work? Splurge on organic chicken breast, sustainable shrimp or lump crab meat and use cashew butter (and nuts) instead of the peanuts.

My mom's favourite version of these noodles was inspired by Robin Miller's The Newlywed Cookbook. Like most families, the stir fry is the perfect excuse to add all the veggies "beginning to die" in the house, and our family loves our veggies so we add almost the whole farm to our bowls! Bridging off of the original recipe, mom really amped up the flavour of the sweet-spicy sauce with lots of Sriracha, Thai curry paste and extra peanut butter. The mixture is then beaten with eggs and added in the last few moments just to cloak the brown rice noodles and vegetables. It freezes, thaws and reheats well too, and I know my mom even took leftovers to work for a cold noodle salad during the hot, humid days we had last week!

Thai Peanut and Vegetable Noodles

Sharing this with Waste Not Want Not Wednesday

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Chocolate Coftea Cookies for #RecipeRedux

Are you a coffee or a tea person?

Our house is, in general, one of teaophiles. My sister and stepdad are diet hard Orange Pekoe drinkers, ignoring any other varietal as a rule, but my mom, stepbrother and I enjoy exploring the world of flavours and strengths out there. When I discovered the emporiums of Teaopia (now Teavana) and DAVIDsTEA a few years ago, it felt like I hit the jackpot. Now I have a cupboard of flavours and varieties, ranging from black to green, maté and 100% herbal - so I can have a cuppa any time of day, regardless of my mood.

Recently I received a bag of chocolate and cinnamon flavoured yerba maté called Cocoa Canela from a friend who wasn't a fan of the Mexican chocolate flavour. As a tea, I wasn't too sure about it myself, but I kept it hoping that I'd come around to the flavour eventually. Then a few days ago the power of Twitter provided the answer in the form of a YouTube link to one of RAWRKatelyn's tea recipes - vegan tea cookies! Katelyn used the "Forever Nuts" blend in her cookies, but I figured I could take that basic recipe and change it around, making chocolate tea cookies instead.

Triple Chocolate Mocha Tea CookiesGiven that I was using a Mexican cocoa flavoured tea, I amped up that element with a little plain cocoa, and used ground Coffee Bean Brittle along with Pyure Bakeable Blend Stevia Sweetener as sweeteners. A little melted coconut oil kept things nice and soft, even though I used 100% whole grain Kamut® flour. Just for looks (and because I had some leftover chocolate from school baking hanging out in the fridge), I smeared the top of each baked cookie with a dollop of vegan semisweet goodness. The combination of coffee, chocolate, "popcorn" (from the genmaicha's brown rice) and tannin-y tea worked incredibly well - I was shocked to say the least!

This month's #RecipeRedux is all about showers - with all the weddings, engagements and babies that seem to spring up as the weather gets nicer, it's only fitting to bring a little something healthier to the party!



Monday, May 20, 2013

Cocoa Banana Donuts

One of the things I like to do for special occasions at work is make a unique, off-the-official-menu (gasp!) snack for the kids. Generally, these events are restricted to once a month or so in order to prevent me getting into too much trouble with the parents and other staff (some of them are quite particular about sticking to the corporate menu cycle), so when I do deviate I try and make the best of it. Whether it's a pan of chewy brownies, itty bitty cinnamon buns or a whole cookie sheet apple pie, throwing a twist into the usual fare of crackers, veggie sticks and banana bread keeps the kids interested, and the teachers hungry too!

Since the teachers and I were up to our eyeballs in planning stress over last week's Mother's Day event, the kids missed out on any sort of special treat themselves. To make it up to them, I made a few batches of goodies last week, so that each class could have something suited for their palates (and any dietary restrictions). These donuts were the Elementary group's special treat: slightly sweet, fruit-filled, baked rings that were tender and moist inside (despite being eggless). They got a hint of colour and flavour from a combination of cocoa and mesquite powders and a boost of nutrition from spelt flour too. Not that the kids cared... they saw donuts and the rest was history!

Shared with Sugar & Slice Sunday.

Cocoa - Banana Donuts

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Hawaiian Sweet Rolls for #BBD

Now that we're well into the season of picnics, BBQs and cookouts, it's time to start looking at some  unique fare that's versatile, portable and (of course) delicious. We do a lot of burgers at my house, thanks to two die-hard carnivores (my stepbrother can put away three giant ones, plus a salad, in a sitting), we go through a lot of buns. Usually we buy them (mostly because those same members of the family are notoriously picky), but then Arby's and a few other fast food places nearby started carrying sandwiches on "Hawaiian sweet rolls". We don't have King's Hawaiian breads around here (even though Arby's does use them apparently), but a few of our store brands have started making facsimiles and that got me into thinking about trying a version too.

Using the ingredient list of the original rolls would have been a total joke, since there is over 30 of them - and 10 of them are chemicals. I saw a few versions of recipes out on the Web, many of them using pineapple juice, but it was the fact that the recipe from Yammie's Noshery used crushed pineapple that made me pick it as a base. I knew that the pineapple itself would add a ton of moisture and tenderizing power to the dough, as well as being tangy enough to cut the richness of the dough down a bit.

With the basic recipe (which is essentially brioche!) as the blueprint, I modified it to make it partially with whole wheat flour as well as adding some extra tropical flavour with coconut "milk alternative" and coconut butter. I know that sugar helps yeast do it's job (though granted you can make perfectly serviceable bread without it), but I couldn't bring myself to add a full half cup to the dough. Instead, I used half coconut sugar, and made up the difference with a new product sent to me for review - Pure Via Turbinado and Stevia Blend (see my initial review below). The resulting rolls were nicely sweet, light and fluffy, tender and moist - exactly as Yammie's description entailed - and I can definitely see why they're popular for the sandwich crowd!

Hawaiian Rolls

The recipe makes 12 big rolls, which would suit a small BBQ at my place or a typical family picnic. However, it's easy enough to double, and the baked buns freeze extremely well - slice them before storing in zip-top freezer bags and you're all set for the next sandwich night! The Bread Baking Day theme for #59 is "bread for company", and I think these would fit ninivepisces' theme very well!These are also being shared with Susan's YeastSpotting event.

Too Quick for this #SundaySupper

I can't believe I have to miss another #SundaySupper this week! Now granted, I would have been in this week's roundup of "Low & Slow" recipes like a dirty shirt... except for two minor major details: 1) Our slow cooker (provided it even works anymore) is up in the rafters of our garage, away from anyone without an extension ladder, and 2) Because we've stashed away our cooker for so long, I don't even have a recipe using it! Our meals tend to be more "flash-in-the-pan" than "set it and forget it", so stay tuned for some of those on What Smells So Good?. In the meantime, check out the rest of the homey, slow-cooked selections from the #SundaySupper team below:


#SundaySupper Low & Slow - Hosted by Susan at The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen

Low & Slow Breads & Starters:

Low & Slow Mains:

Low & Slow Sides:

Low & Slow Desserts:

Wine Pairing Recommendations for Low & Slow Food from ENOFYLZ Wine Blog

Don’t forget to join the #SundaySupper chat on Twitter Sunday to discuss cooking low and slow! We’ll tweet throughout the day and share our delicious recipes. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm EST. 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 delicious recipes and food photos.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mrs. Randall’s Brownies (Ms Sarah’s Version!)

Wow, this is the third post in a row that I've written about brownies or blondies! The sad thing is that there really is no end in sight as far as those are concerned, since between my love for baking them and my friends, family and co-workers' love for eating them, I've been a bar cookie baking fiend lately! Hopefully you'll indulge me as long as this particular obsession lasts... who knows, tomorrow it could be cotton candy (though not likely, just so you know).

Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Vegan Brownie BitesNot only are these brownies the third bar cookie in a row, but they're also the second brownie I've shared from Petite Treats: Your Favorite Desserts-Bite Size!. I was intrigued by these (salled "Mrs Randalls Brownies"in the book) because they were sugar, gluten and animal-product free - basically the antithesis of the typical brownie. However, their saving grace was the combination of flavours from rich cocoa, creamy coconut oil and ground nuts (almonds and hazelnuts), along with the natural sweetness of stevia and agave. They're even portion controlled, being baked in perfect "two bite" mini muffins - just remember to watch that timer. Overbaked, you might as well be eating those sawdusty charcoal briquettes you just bought for your long weekend BBQ. I strongly recommend the frosting too - not super sweet, but creamy enough to elevate these bites to "something special"!

Sent to Ricki's Wellness Weekend

Monday, May 13, 2013

Genius Chocolate-Chip Blondies

I never discovered the world of the blondie bar until I went to university. I was well versed in brownies, of course, in their various homemade and store-bought forms, but I was (and am still) such a chocoholic that the idea of eating any cookie without so much of a trace of chocolate was horrifying.

Genius Chocolate Chip BlondiesNow, I've come to realize that not every dessert has to be chocolate-based, and in fact some things (like apple crisp and cherry pie) are... gasp!... better without it. But blondies are still a bit of a mixed bag as far as I'm concerned. Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of a butterscotchy, chewy bar cookie, but I like the idea of a butterscotchy, chewy bar cookie with chocolate chips better! The idea (and most of the recipe) for these dense, rich, nutty-tasting blondies came from Chocolate Covered Katie, who is still on my top ten list of favourite healthy food bloggers. I love the nutty, buttery flavour that chickpeas lend to dishes, whether they be savoury or sweet - and although nuts or nut butter of any kind is a no-no at school (and our afternoon crowd has an egg allergy) the pureed beans add a combination of binding, moisture and rich, density that would otherwise be missing from a simple eggless brown sugar bar.

Being that I did have to make this recipe for a large group, the ingredient amounts I've given are a reflection of that. That said, the bars did scale up wonderfully and both froze and thawed well in addition to making delicious frozen "sandwich cookies" around chocolate frozen yogurt (if you decide to go that route I would layer blondie-ice cream-blondie in a pan and freeze as a whole, then cut squares or bars). With the main ingredient being garbanzo beans, they're also right on track to submit to this month's Eating the Alphabet Healthy Recipe Challenge (letters G&H) on Meal Planning Magic.



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Espresso Brownies for a Mother's Day #SundaySupper

I have fond memories of Saturday morning outings with my mom when I was in my teens. That was back in our Weight Watcher days, where Saturday mornings meant the dreaded weigh-in followed by toasted bagels and cream cheese for breakfast and a vanilla fudge brownie latte for a "morning dessert". Those days are gone (sigh), but Mom married into an Italian family with a taste for espresso and it's assorted drink and dessert variations. While the most traditional caffeinated sweet, tiramisu, usually offers up a "meh" response from both Mom and my stepdad (anything overly creamy is usually not much of a hit), it's hard to steer her away from chocolate - and when that chocolate is spiked with a heady dose of espresso and baked into a sinfully fudgy brownie (laced with Kahlua no less), it's a Mother's Day delight at our house!

Espresso BrowniesI wish I could take credit for the idea to thoroughly souse the pure chocolate bliss that is a brownie with caffeine, but in fact the original recipe was found in Petite Treats: Your Favorite Desserts-Bite Size!. Sadly, as is the book's recipe was on the dry side when I made it verbatim, so I took preemptive measures for my mom's batch. Honey added a moist chew, brown sugar added depth and more chocolate chips added pops of yummy texture. Just to be sure there was no dry or hard brownie bits at all, when I flipped out the bars they got a nice brushing of Kahlua and a rich chocolatey icing too. Hey, only the best for Mom - and what mom doesn't need a little "pick me up" these days?

This #SundaySupper is all about Mom - we're celebrating the amazing women that brought us into the world as well as all the other incredible women who acted in loco parentis growing up. Make sure you take a look at what all the other #SundaySupper participants are sharing for Mother's Day!

Mother's Day Brunch:

Mother's Day Entrees:


Mother's Day Sides:


Mother's Day Desserts and Drinks:

Grown Up Goodies

Don't forget to join the #SundaySupper conversation on Twitter today to celebrate Mother's Day! We’ll tweet throughout the day and share our delicious recipes. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm EST. 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 delicious recipes and food photos.

What do you think of when you think of your Mom? Do you have any special memories?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Vegan Coconut - Lemon Cake

Some days I wonder why I do what I do. This cake was one of those labours of love to put together, not because any part of it was incredibly difficult or time-consuming to do, but because I had to do it all with gloves on! Some of you know that I'm allergic to coconut - not only ingesting it but touching it (or hazelnuts) as well. To avoid poufy arms and an itchy rash from seriously hindering my ability to cook at work, the gloves (and a thorough rinse of my hands with wet wipes) were the order of the day. 

That said, I am very proud of this dessert and surprised as heck that it looked so good - as I am with all my cakes! Granted, I already had a good recipe that I used as a base - my Vegan Lemon Sheet Cake - and a few tweaks (and a doubling of the recipe) was all it took to turn it from petit four to celebration status. I wanted to add another (subtle) layer of flavour this time, so I used a thick coconut milk for the soy, and filled it with raspberry jam sprinkled with shredded coconut meat. Of course, the frosting was coconut based too, so even though the cake is full of vibrant lemon tang, the flavours balance nicely enough and the whole thing isn't too sweet. 

I'd say this is more a "grown up" cake, but then again I'm usually cooking for a crowd of ankle biters (albeit quite adventurous ones). It's tender and moist enough, but stands up to slicing and transportation well... almost like a sheet version of a pound cake. Even the "crust" isn't really noticeable, so you don't need to trim it a whole lot (if at all). Then again, you may just want a "taste test" before the big event, just for quality!

Callas on Carob

Sharing with Sugar & Slice Sunday

Carob - Coconut Frosting

Since I was making a coconut milk based cake for the Mother's Day tea today, I wanted to put together a frosting that would compliment it without overpowering the delicate nature of the crumb beneath. I had the option of breaking out the can, thoughtfully suggested by the teachers at school, but vanilla is just so... vanilla. Plus, I've found canned frosting can be even finickier to pipe than homemade, and it took minutes to whip up an original, flavourful, not-too-sweet recipe to swirl on each square of cake. I piled on the layers of flavour and richness with creamy coconut milk, coconut oil, and coconut extract, then added a touch of naturally sweet carob powder for an unexpected, slightly fruity twist (and a brown colour, which I wanted for the "flower bed" effect). It whipped up nice and smooth, and after a stint in the fridge (I did it overnight and kept it in a ziploc) it was the perfect consistency for piping and all the flavours had mellowed together.

Now, this isn't your "health-nut, diet friendly" frosting.... that was Sunday's post. That said, it is vegan, nut free and gluten free, not to mention chocolate free and rich in lauric acid thanks to the coconut. Carob adds a touch of calcium and vitamin E too!  

A Garden of Goodness

Submitted to Gluten Free Friday

Carob - Coconut Frosting
Makes about 2 cups, 24 servings
1/4 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
2 tbsp solid coconut oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp coconut extract
1/3 cup premium, thick coconut milk (I used Rooster Gold Label, Thai Kitchen would be good too)
14 oz powdered sugar
3 tbsp carob powder
2 tbsp cornstarch
  1. Beat together shortening, oil, salt, extracts and coconut milk until smooth.
  2. Sift in the sugar, carob and cornstarch, and beat until creamy and thick. Add more powdered sugar if necessary for desired texture (this was perfect for piping for me).
  3. Chill about 1 hour before use. 
Amount Per Serving 
Calories: 107.9
Total Fat: 4.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 1.4 mg
Total Carbs: 17.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.1 g
Protein: 0.1 g

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Stale Marshmallow Fondant

Do you have your plans for Mother's Day yet? I've got my cards done at least! At school/work we're whipping up an afternoon "tea" for the parents, and (of course) as the "Dietary Manager / Certified Baker" it fell to me to do the cake. Now, I was told I could do whatever, which could have meant a box mix and canned frosting (if that)... but really, how could I live that down? Luckily, a fortuitous shopping trip by one of the teachers and a lucky break from my freezer and pantry meant I had the makings of a beautiful dessert topped with handmade, hand painted flowers! Today I'm giving you my version of marshmallow fondant, but I promise the cake and frosting recipes will come tomorrow!

Sweet Lily

This isn't the first time I've played around with marshmallow fondant either. Remember that Rich Root Cake I made for my grandmother's birthday? The bumblebees and flower leaves were courtesy of a batch made earlier that year. MMF is great for any sort of cake or cookie decorating because a) it's cheap (a couple bucks worth of marshmallows and icing sugar vs. up to $28 for the same amount of premade), b) it's easy (took me all of 10 minutes to put together) and c) it tastes so much better than traditional fondant. Yet it behaves similarly, taking on colour and flavour well, rolling and cutting as needed, and even freezing for ages provided it's well wrapped.

BuzzzzzzWhat makes my MMF different than your standard recipes from What's Cooking America or Wilton is the type of marshmallows I use. Or rather, the age of the marshmallows I use. Most recipes call for the freshest mallows you can get your hands on - but when I made this the first time, I didn't have fresh marshmallows. I had marshmallows that I found in the back of our pantry, which were more like gravel than pillows. But I figured what the heck, I needed to do something with them anyway to avoid just tossing them, so I gave it a whirl. Wouldn't you know it, the little sugar pucks flung a surprise into the mix by simply caramelizing in the microwave, not really melting. I quickly grabbed the first thing that made sense in my pantry (clear corn syrup) and beat the daylights out of it, which smoothed things out a touch. To deal with any sort of "cooked" flavour (although I do like toasted marshmallows) I didn't even bother trying to hide it - I just played it up with a few drops of super-strength English Toffee flavour! It tasted so good - and was so cheap (since I can get old marshmallows for pennies in the Bulk Barn's clearance pile) that I made another batch and stashed it in the freezer for whenever I might need it - like this week! 

To make the calla lilies, I rolled out the fondant between sheets of waxed paper and cut out rounds with a miniature wavy circle cutter. Then I gently rolled each round into a cone and filled the centres with a silver dragee for the stamen before allowing them to dry overnight. The next morning, I mixed a "paint" of vodka and food colouring and hand-applied the purple and green hues to each before letting them dry for another 6 hours. Once they were on their coconut-carob frosting and hand-tinted coconut beds, they looked like the Garden of Eden, and from what I heard from Mom (official taste tester!) they tasted like it too!

Marshmallow Fondant

Monday, May 6, 2013

Hazelnut Torte

There isn't a single person in my immediate family (or stepfamily) who isn't a fan of at least one type of nut. Even I have a favourite, although it has been a long time since eating any of them without an allergic reaction, and it happens to be the same as my famously picky sister's. While she doesn't necessarily realize it, Teaghan and I both adore the taste of hazelnuts - especially when paired with chocolate. 
 
 When I found a recipe for a ground hazelnut cake in one of the books that had just arrived in my "to review" pile (The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook: From the Garden to the Table in 120 Recipes), it immediately preoccupied my whole thought process when it came to baking. I couldn't wait to have an excuse to make this rich, nutty torte - and finally I decided I didn't need one. I even knew what I'd use to fill and frost it - far richer (and, ahem, better) than the classically simple whipped cream or crème fraîche (common with European tortes like this), I whipped up that Luxuriously Healthy Chocolate Frosting you saw yesterday and lavishly dolloped it onto the bottom layer to make a thick creme-like filling. Rather than spread the remainder all over the surface of the layers (although I had more than enough), I opted for a moderate smear on top followed by a dusting of cocoa for a hint of bitter richness. 

Filbert Torte with Rich Chocolate Frosting

All together, the finished dessert was two layers of dense (but surprisingly light) gluten and dairy free hazelnut cake with almost half a layer's thickness worth of frosting - a mixture akin to a healthier Nutella (on steroids!). 

Sending to Sugar & Slice Sunday, Mouthwatering Monday, Marvellous Monday, Mix it up MondayTwo Cup Tuesday and Totally Tasty Tuesdays

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Luxuriously Healthy Chocolate Frosting for #SundaySupper - Cinco de Mayo Style!

Avocado. It's the original darling child of the "good fat" world, on the list of the World's Healthiest Foods - and for good reason. The majority of the fat in one of these green, leathery eggs has shown promise in fighting arthritis, lowering inflammation, absorb nutrients and decreasing the risk of heart disease! They're also ridiculously high in fibre, vitamin K and B vitamins, and have a buttery texture that would be sorely missed from any Mexican platter or California Roll.

Yet... I don't like them. More than that, I hate them in their natural form. Sliced on a salad? I'll pick them off. Guac is a dip at a party? I'll pass. Nobody in my family gets it, but it's both a taste and a texture thing for me. I like my produce on the crisp side (I don't like bananas either unless they're green), and the favour is just too odd for me to handle.

However, that's avocado au naturale. I've come to realize over the years that if you add chocolate to almost anything it makes it at the very least palatable. So why not try the same with an avocado or two, and turn them into a rich, fudgy filling for my Hazelnut Torte? After all, chocolate goes with hazelnuts, and ripe avocados are very similar to soft butter in texture, so they should make a suitable "buttercream", right?

Right. So right, in fact, it's almost downright wrong to say so - but I'm not the first to turn the Mexican and Californian staple into dessert (or frosting). In fact, the mixture I ended up with was adapted from Giada De Laurentis’ Avocado Mousse - just a little less agave, a little more cocoa, and a little touch of vanilla stevia for extra flavour and sweetness. The frosting, after chilling for an hour or so, is pretty remarkable: not only is it added-fat free, there’s no refined sugar or any animal products either! Who knew dessert could be so healthy?

Luxuriously Nutritious Chocolate Frosting

This week for #SundaySupper we're all about Cinco de Mayo treats. Cinco de Mayo celebrates the victory of the Mexicans over the French in the Battle of Puebla, and what better reason to dance, eat, drink and party?! Check out the other great goodies from the gang, and be sure to join in our Twitter chat tonight (details below).

Cinco de Mayo Appetizers & Sides {Aperitivos}:

Cinco de Mayo Main Dishes {Platos Principales}:

Cinco de Mayo Desserts {Postres}:

Cinco de Mayo Drinks {Bebidas}:

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on Twitter tonight to celebrate Cinco de Mayo! We’ll tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm EST. 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 delicious recipes and food photos.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Coconut Banana Truffle Ganache

Sometimes in the kitchen things come together so well that you can't believe the end result. Normally, I shy away from dealing with melted chocolate (well, any time away from the holidays) because it's finicky, and since I'm only buying the good stuff (i.e. Callebaut) for my cookies and muffins at home, I'm loath to shell out huge sums for something that may not adequately showcase the quality. But the dregs of a birthday / Easter basket also included two bars of Green & Black's 70% that were begging to be used. Then, one of the bananas in the ripening bag I was keeping them in decided to leap to what would have been a rather unfortunate death in any other circumstance, and I was getting tired of staring at the end of a can of coconut milk my mom had used for a Thai curry earlier this week.
  
It was really the appearance of the banana and the chocolate that made me think of a recipe I had spotted on Specialty Cake Creations the other day. Regina had come up with an ingenious way to bring the fresh fruit and natural sweetness of a ripe banana to the rich indulgence of a truffle ganache. I did make changes to her recipe, thanks to what I had (or didn't have) on hand - I used the whole banana (because who has half of one lying around?), added an extra ounce of chocolate (my bars were 3.5 oz each, and I can't eat them :-( ), and since I had no more condensed milk left after the Multilayer Bars, I used up that premium coconut milk - which is not only thick and rich, but lightly sweet naturally - not cloying like sweetened condensed.

Banana - Coconut Truffle Ganache

While my chocoholic mom was "taste testing" spoonfuls right out of the bowl and pan, I suggest actually making the truffles once your ganache is chilled down. Roll small balls of this heaven and either dip them in chocolate or dust them with unsweetened cocoa for a delicious gift (for anyone, including yourself!).

Shared with Wellness Weekends and Gluten Free Fridays

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Almond Mocha (Sugar Free!)

OK, you're going to have to bear with me. I know it's 20+°C and sunny outside right now. I know. Hot drinks are dropping from menus faster than a lit match from a firebug, and rich, sugary things aren't exactly bikini body fodder. But the good news is that you can still treat yourself to a rich, smooth mocha - this baby is not only great hot or iced, but tripled with 2 tbsp of almond butter added to it you can make a great popsicle, or churn it for ice cream! Don't worry about the sugar content affecting your Summer (or afternoon) plans either - I've finally come up with a mixture of stevia sweeteners that don't overpower the end result, hold up to heat and can be frozen without losing their delicate nuances.

The first sweetener I added to my favourite unsweetened almond milk was my fairly standard liquid stevia, which was fine but didn't really support the cocoa flavour - alone I found it more overpowered the mix. Then I messed around with a few types of stevia powder in packets, which ranged from horrible and bitter to good but not sweet enough. When Pyure Brands offered me the chance to try out their stevia baking blend and packets, I knew the benchmark (for the packets at least) would be this afternoon treat. Combined with two drops of the liquid stevia, the organic packets were the perfect addition - plus I liked that they were made with agave fibre (inulin) for a bit of prebiotic goodness. I've made some other treats with the packets as well as the baking blend, and I'm impressed for sure!

Shared with Waste Not Want Not Wednesday on Poor and Gluten Free

Hot Almond Mocha

Almond Mocha (Sugar Free!)
Serves 1
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch sea salt
1 cup brewed coffee
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
2 tbsp boiling water
2 drops liquid stevia (use your favourite) 

If serving cold:
  1. Stir together the coffee, almond milk and liquid stevia. Chill thoroughly.
If serving hot:
  1. Combine the coffee and almond milk in a microwave safe pitcher and heat about 3-4 minutes, until hot, but drinkable.
For both:
  1. Mix the stevia, cocoa and salt in a large cup (or a jug if serving two).
  2. Stir the boiling water into the dry mixture until completely combined, then slowly whisk in the almond milk mixture and liquid stevia.
  3. Serve and enjoy!
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 39.4
Total Fat: 2.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 185.7 mg
Total Carbs: 6.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 6.1 g
Protein: 1.9 g

*Note: Pyure gave me the products to review and use but all opinions are my own and are not paid for