Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Banana Brownies

We've all been faced with the brown banana syndrome: you buy a bunch on the weekend / grocery day, eat a few (one a day if you're a die-hard), and before you know it the rest of the bunch is starting to turn rather not yellow. In the summer, bananas get it doubly tough - not only to they overripen at lightning speed in the heat, but the sheer availability of other (and IMHO more delicious) produce like fresh berries and peaches relegates them to the ignored corner of the counter.

Now, I'm the first to admit that I don't like fresh bananas. I'll eat them, if they're mostly green with a tiny yellow blush, but given the choice, I'm finding another fruit. Baked into bread, cake or cookies is a different story, and I even love mashing a frozen one with some cocoa powder for a mock ice cream (especially since chocolate makes everything better). My mom and stepdad, though, eat them out of hand a lot over the winter in particular, and on weekday mornings my mom regularly slices one over her oatmeal and blueberries.

Banana BrowniesEven so, I have a running freezer cache of bananas too far gone for anything but mashing, and as you know I've made my fair share of banana bread over the years. But then I found a great use for them (that included chocolate!) on Whisk, Write, Repeat. Banana Brownies. I know... how much more delicious can you make the rejected fruit? I re-veganized the recipe, added some vanilla soy protein powder for a little "oomph" (I was serving it to a crowd that included finicky kids who hardly ate anything). I was able to use the delicious Pure Via Stevia (the baking blend) to cut down the sugar a bit, while the sugar I did use was the rich dark brown variety. For a little added texture (and fun), I tossed in a few handfuls of Cheerios along with the chocolate chunk - the chunks added pockets of gooeyness that were a joy to discover! The kids lapped them up - and considering their taste preferences I was definitely patting myself on the back.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Watermelon Muffins

Still searching for a new use for watermelon - or it's curd version? Well, apparently I was too slow in eating my second jar, and my mom told me on the weekend that it needed to be used up or thrown out to make room for BBQ leftovers and groceries. Hmph.

Well, I did manage to use it up in one go, along with the last of some shredded coconut and mini chocolate chips. Doing what I do, I baked the lot into a batch of muffins... though granted, they are sweet (even though there's no sugar in the batter - only the curd and chocolate chips), with a tender, cakey texture, so I'd be more tempted to call them "naked cupcakes". Either way, they make use of a good portion of curd (I'm sure lemon or strawberry curd would work deliciously in this too),and get extra structure and moisture from a trifecta of dairy: yoghurt, cream cheese and butter. To boost the flavour of the melon a little more, a few drops of watermelon flavouring got stirred in too - just enough to add interest without brashly declaring "yes, I am watermelon. Hear me roar".

Watermelon Muffins

Now, I mentioned that I didn't add sugar to the batter... and I didn't. But these are sweet, thanks to some of the Pyure Bakeable Blend Stevia Sweetener I had on hand. Normally I wouldn't use the replacement exclusively in muffins or cakes - it isn't as hygroscopic as "normal" sugar so the finished bakes tend to dry out - but with all the other moisture going on I figured it would be pretty safe to do this once. Of course, if you don't have it on hand, regular or coconut sugar would work too - just watch them closely for overbrowning.

In the end, they were an unexpected sweet treat for the party, which surprised everyone when the "secret ingredient" was revealed!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Lemongrass Tofu Banh Mi

Now that you have all that delicious carrot pickle on your hands (granted, it's still marinating... right?) what are you going to do with it all? Well, how about a delicious, vegan version of the most common foil for it - the popular Vietnamese sandwich Banh Mi? 

I only stumbled onto the wonders of Banh Mi after removing meat from my diet, so I don't know how authentic using marinated tofu really is. But it doesn't matter - the flavour and texture of the finished product - tangy, crusty sourdough bread, sweet, spicy and sour pickle, lightly crisped, almost floral tofu and spicy-sweet Sriracha laced Veganaise - is out of this world and will tempt vegans and omnivores alike.

*Note: the NI accounts for eating all the marinade. Obviously this isn't the case - only about 19 calories, .6 g fat, 554 mg sodium and .5g carbohydrate are absorbed into the tofu (not the 64 calories,  2.1 g fat,  1,847.8 mg sodium and 1.9 g carbohydrate a serving of just marinade contains)

Lemongrass Tofu Banh Mi
Serves 4

1 (350g) pkg extra-firm tofu, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
5 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce (or tamari)
¼ cup low-sodium vegetable broth
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
3 tbsp pureed lemongrass (like Gourmet Garden)
1 tbsp coconut oil
4 sourdough demi-baguettes (or 2 regular baguettes, halved crosswise), sliced in half
4 tbsp nayonaise(or homemade vegan mayo)
2 tsp Sriracha (or to taste)
1 cup Spicy Shredded Root Pickle
Thinly sliced cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes and chopped cilantro to taste

  1. Wrap tofu in a clean tea towel and press under a heavy weight for 1 hour.
  2. Slice crosswise into ¼” pieces and set aside.
  3. In a large plastic bag or a shallow glass baking dish, combine the remaining ingredients and shake to distribute well.
  4. Add the tofu, seal the bag and gently distribute the pieces through the marinade (try to get them in one layer).
  5. Let marinate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Drain the marinade and blot tofu dry with paper towel.
  6. Heat oil in a large non-stick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and add the tofu in one layer (you will likely need to do this in batches).
  7. Cook the tofu until both sides are golden brown with a nice firm crust.
  1. Toast the baguette until golden.
  2. Combine the mayonnaise and Sriracha and spread evenly onto one half of each sandwich.
  3. Layer with lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, and tofu.
  4. Top with Spicy Shredded Root Pickle and cilantro to taste.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 569.9
Total Fat: 19.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 3,000.7 mg
Total Carbs: 68.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.1 g
Protein: 18.6 g

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Kitchen Sink Vegetable Curry (Farmer's Market #SundaySupper)

Farmer's markets and backyard gardens never cease to amaze me with their bounty. Even years when Mother Nature has been less than kind to the growing conditions (raining far too much or not at all, too hot or too cold), I can always find a bevy of delicious, local and fresh treats to bring into the kitchen with me. Granted, some of the stuff doesn't make it that far, but I always find space in the fridge for a fresh-picked pepper, plump July berries and a head or two of cauliflower or broccoli. Until my tomatoes come to fruition, the gorgeous orbs from our local farmers fit the bill nicely, as do the carrots. Garlic scapes are one thing that I snap up as soon as I find them in the markets as well, and I continue to buy handfuls of them until they're gone for the season.

It was this bounty of produce that inspired me to make today's #SundaySupper meal. The original inspiration came from the pages of The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook, which featured a coconut milk based, "fall vegetable" Thai curry filled with cauliflower, onions and sweet potatoes. When Summer (and the associated good prices on fresh veggies) came, it began to evolve into a massive veggie-use up fest.

Alien!You see, as much as my mom and I adore all things not beige, our eyes at the markets are often bigger than our stomachs over the week and come grocery day we sometimes find ourselves with leftovers threatening to turn at any moment. That is especially the case when the garden starts producing, since it becomes impossible to predict what we'll need by week's end. I took stock of the fridge and pantry, grabbed a bunch of huge Vidalia onions my (ironically onion-hating) stepdad had bought at a fundraiser, traipsed out to the yard to raid my herb garden (and my Egyptian onion plant!) and got to work.

Just StartingI'm not going to lie - this curry is a long process. There is a goodly amount of chopping, peeling, cubing and stirring. I had to switch pots right at the beginning because the stockpot I thought would suffice (which I usually use for soup) proved much too small for the bevy of onion, and I thought I'd have to move to my canning pot when I tried to stir in the other veggies. Then comes the cooking time - the original recipe called for just 15 minutes - and I don't know of any "cubed" sweet potato that cooks without a microwave or superhuman powers in 15 minutes, especially at a "simmer". While the first part of the curry cooked down, the rest of the veggies got prepped, tofu was cubed (I pressed it in the morning) and I put some brown Basmati and wild rice on as an accompaniment (I know it's an odd combination with Thai curry but it worked!).

Being a stew, and somewhat spicy, you'd think it would have no place on our menu with the heat the way it's been. However, Thailand (as well as other nations known for spicy food) is a rather warm place - and the spice level of the curry with the heat of the day causes you to sweat - AKA cool down. Warm food also has a satiating power to it, which coupled with all the protein, fibre and nutrients in the dish mean that you can get by on less - hello bathing suits! Besides, in this day of air conditioning, my mom's office is frigid most days... meaning that anything warm is welcome... why not something healthy?

Thai Vegetable Curry

#SundaySupper this week is all about the haul from the Farmer's Market. It's hard to top fresh and local, and our group has really hit it out of the park this week with the offerings! Hosting this week is T.R. Crumbley of No One Likes Crumbley Cookies - Thanks TR!

Appetizers & Salads

Garlic Scape Dip from The Girl In the Little Red Kitchen
Onion Bacon Jam with Bread n' Brie from Gotta Get Baked
Kale & Pepita Pesto from girlichef
Garden Quinoa Salad from The Urban Mrs
Grilled Cherry Tomato and Goat Cheese Salad from Pescetarian Journal
Watermelon-Feta Salad with Pomegranate Drizzle from The Weekend Gourmet

Soups & Sides

Watermelon Gazpacho from Jane's Adventures in Dinner
Classic Gazpacho from Curious Cuisiniere
Pea Soup from Small Wallet, Big Appetite
Pickled Garlic Scapes from kimchi MOM
Cheesy Zucchini Hodge Podge from Cupcakes & Kale Chips
Succotash from Magnolia Days
3 Easy Japanese Spinach Recipes from
Michigan-Made Meal with Seasoned Potato Chips from Foxes Love Lemons


Summer Veggie Pizza from Country Girl In The Village
Tomato Pie from The Hand That Rocks The Ladle
Kitchen Sink Vegetable Curry from What Smells So Good?
Margherita Pizza from Growing Up Gabel
Cheesy Zucchini Fritters from Cindy's Recipes and Writings
Three Sauces with Summer Herbs to Transform a Simple Grilled Dinner from Cook the Story
Vegetable Quesadillas from Cookin' Mimi
Mushroom Scallion Risotto from Vintage Kitchen Notes
Lemony Summer Linguine with Grilled Vegetables from Neighborfood
Pasta alla Norma Nuda from Juanita's Cocina
Arugula Pizza from Family Foodie


Peach Cobbler from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Coconut Cherry Bars from Killer Bunnies, Inc
Lightened Up Peach and Blueberry Cobbler from Peanut Butter and Peppers
Cherry Brandy Cobbler from The Wimpy Vegetarian
Peach Maple Ice Cream from Pies and Plots
Cherry Clafoutis from Food Lust People Love
Roasted Figs with Caramel, Honey Ice Cream and Aged Balsamic from Crazy Foodie Stunts
Peach Ice Cream Paletas from Basic N Delicious
Gluten Free Sour Cherry Cake from No One Likes Crumbley Cookies

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter today! We 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 fabulous recipes and food photos.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Spicy Shredded Root Pickle

There's something about pickles that I love. Give me almost any vegetable and add vinegar, salt and spices or herbs and I'm a happy girl! Since I had a bunch of beautiful carrots from the farmer's market and a fresh haul of radishes from the garden, I thought I'd try my hand at a new (to me) type of vinegary treat - a carrot-radish pickle a la banh mi sandwiches. 

Like most vinegar-based pickles, making these is dead simple. As a bonus, they won't heat up your kitchen for very long, even if you can them - most of the "cooking" is done by the salt purge, and the boiling is really just to combine all the flavours and bring the mix up to temperature for safe storage. Adding a good amount of grated ginger gives them a good kick, too - without the need for chiles (although you can certainly add some!) - but even without hot peppers, be careful when you're leaning over the pot or that pungent heat will clear your sinuses in a snap!

Again, like most marinated or pickled things, this relatively delicate shredded mixture is far better after it's had a chance to sit and develop the marriage of flavours. While I liked it after a day or two, it was far better after a week! I've been adding it to wraps and salads, and my stepbrother had it on his burgers and hot dogs at tonight's BBQ, but I have to admit I've eaten it on it's own as a type of gingery root "slaw"! I can't wait to toss it with a "regular" coleslaw to see how it turns out!

Spicy Shredded Root Pickle

Shared with Wellness Weekend, Gluten Free Fridays and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Raisin NOatmeal Cookies

You can never predict what some combinations of ingredients will create - even when the recipes are in much-lauded cookbooks by respected chefs, I've had some horrible flops mixed in with the expected successes. When you're heading into the realm of specialty cooking, especially specialty baking, yet another wrench gets thrown into the mix. Things normally reliant on ingredients like butter, sugar, eggs and flour have to be carefully toyed with, as they don't generally take kindly to being eliminated. Of course, there are the tried and true substitutes out there which do a fabulous job, and are often what I turn to for a recipe modification.

Then there are those recipes that are so out of the realm of "usual" that traditional bakers look at them and think "this can't possibly turn out". When I see the "special diet" formulae for spectacular-looking treats claiming to be "just like (insert name of decadent food here)", especially if they eschew almost everything that makes the finished product recognizable, I have to hesitate and wonder if by making them I'm just setting myself up for disaster (and possibly an oven cleaning). If I'm reviewing a cookbook, though, I muscle through the recipes as written to give an honest opinion, and while not all of them are stunning successes (some don't even turn out), I have been pleasantly surprised.

This was the case when I made cookies from Cooking for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet: Over 100 Easy, Healthy, and Delicious Recipes that are Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free, and Grain-Free for the first time. Without grains, sugar or dairy, relying on almond butter as a base and coconut as the main textural agent, there doesn't look like there is really anything "cookie-ish" about them - nor do they appear to be able to form anything other than a goopy mess without some form of flour-like substance. However, lo and behold, they turned out to be the sleeper hit of the party - tender without falling apart, rich tasting with a "grainy" feel like your usual cookies. I made some alterations to the original based on my family's needs and tastes (as well as reducing the yield), but the outcome is the same - decadent, "normal-looking" cookies that make your home smell just like a bakery while cooking and taste even better!

SCD Approved "Oatmeal Raisin" Cookies

Shared with Allergy Free Wednesdays hosted by Nancy @ Real Food Allergy Free, Tessa @ Tessa Domestic DivaMichelle @ The Willing CookLaura @ Laura’s Gluten Free PantryAmber @ The Tasty AlternativeJanelle @ Gluten Freely Frugal and Adrienne @ Whole New Mom

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summer Bounty Zucchini Loaf

To me, Summer means getting out into the garden, back into the gym, playing golf and going for my regular Farmer's Market crawls with Mom. This also means, though, that I'm in the kitchen a lot less - unless I'm canning! Since I had made a double batch of my Watermelon Curd, I found myself with more than I could get through as a simple spread and started looking at my options to use it before it turned. I had dreams of bar cookies (like lemon bars) but never seemed to have the time or energy to make a crust, then the filling (I'm a whiner, I know), plus I still had a ton of leftover ingredients from school I wanted to at least make a dent in. Instead, I went for the universal "catch-all" recipe for almost anything baking - a quickbread.

Summer Bounty Zucchini LoafActually, my impetus (aside from the random "school ingredients" and excess Watermelon Curd) was the fact that our garden's zucchini are starting to come in... and in... and in... We do eat a lot of it anyways, but as any gardener knows, you never have just one zucchini at a time! Zucchini breads are nothing new, but I decided to try a twist on one from my mom's recipe box... which effectively changed the whole thing (except the zucchini!). I made the loaf vegan, slashed the sugar, nixed the nuts, added ground cookies for some of the flour, changed the cinnamon to cardamom and added some flaxseed for kicks. The curd helped me replace a good portion of the oil in the original, and I swirled a little extra in on top for a more distinctive flavour. In fact, the only things that didn't change were the zucchini, whole wheat flour, ginger, vanilla, salt and leavening!

It all worked beautifully, though - in fact, much better than I thought! The interior was moist (but not soggy or gummy like most low-fat baking), the watermelon was there but not overpowering, the cookies added a light sweetness and texture and the cardamom added a bit of interest. Nobody who didn't know beforehand could pick out the "random" combination I tossed in, but somebody who tasted it told me it "tasted like Summer". Who knew "seasoning" had another meaning?

Summer's Bounty Zucchini Bread

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Exciting News!

Check your address bar: What Smells So Good? now has a new home -

Only took me 6 years, but I'm finally my own domain!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Gold Stars for a Snacky #RecipeRedux

Were you a fan of Goldfish crackers growing up? For some reason I never fell into that "love" category with them - or Ritz either for that matter. I liked my plain, salted Triscuits and melba toast for snacks, given the option (until the Pretzel goldfish came along... those are delicious). However, my sister (who always loved things with cheese or dairy in general) went through a Goldfish phase if you will - meaning she was consuming so much of them that we joked she'd turn orange like in that Magic School Bus episode. The kids at school were hounds for the (admittedly cute) crackers too, and while they are certainly not the worst snack in the world, I knew that homemade could be that much better... plus, it would be a great way to use up any leftover cheese from the week's lunches.
While I didn't have a tiny goldfish cookie cutter to make the "authentic-looking" crackers from Classic Snacks by Casey Barber, I did have a tiny star... so gold"fish" became either gold"starfish" or simply gold "stars", depending on the audience. After the first round of baking was a bit of a fiasco (my fault for not taking into account smaller cutters), the next batch (made with a spelt/whole wheat pastry/AP flour mix, a dash of black pepper, and a combination of shredded Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese) was spot on.

For the adults, extra old Cheddar, a pinch of both jalapeno and chipotle chili powders and a chili pepper were on the menu - and were just as well received! 

This month's #RecipeRedux is all about the grab n' go snacks we love - be they for road trips, airport lines or late night outdoor movie screenings!

Italian Turkey Meatballs (With a Secret!) for #SundaySupper

My mom always used to make us meatballs when I was growing up. I'm sure her recipe was relatively basic, but I'll always remember them as the best tasting things to ever grace pasta and tomato sauce. Like her meatloaf, there was coarsely grated onion, black pepper and garlic powder, and likely some sort of dried herb with the breadcrumbs and eggs. There may have been paprika. She did teach me how to make both meatballs and meatloaf as a kid, but since I haven't eaten meat in almost 10 years (and my family doesn't eat what I cook... sigh) it was a skill that kind of fell by the wayside. Even when I started cooking at my school, the time crunch factor was such that we just couldn't do scratch - not that we did spaghetti + meatballs anyways (it was meatballs and Diana sauce over rice, usually).

Italian Turkey Meatballs (With a Secret)That last week, though, with two packs of ground turkey breast in the freezer and a spare evening at home, I re-taught myself how to make meatballs... with a twist. These were basically the "miser's meatballs", since they used up a bunch of odds and ends in the pantry - including wholegrain waffles and a can of kidney beans (ah, the great protein-stretcher). The idea to use the beans came after some creative Googling landed me on the blog With a Freshness, followed by's version. The breakfast waffles, left abandoned after being "too toasted" for the kids' preference as morning snack, made a fantastic binder - just like I had seen on Gluten Free Goddess. Bits and pieces of veggies, high protein gluten flour, a couple eggs and a handful of Italian-themed seasonings made up the rest of the mixture, which looked eerily like ground beef at the end even though it started life as pale ground turkey.

I scooped a few mini-meatballs onto the trays before getting the "lightning bolt" idea to give it the "piping bag" treatment instead - squeezing balls onto the sheets through the corner of a Ziploc really sped up the tedious process of making over 100 balls! By pre-baking them, I eliminated the chance of being rushed the day of using them and undercooking them by accident, and it also helped them stay together when I braised them in the homemade tomato sauce I had canned last year. In short, they were absolutely fantastic - I just wish I had reason to make them again!

Italian Turkey Meatballs (With a Secret)

This #SundaySupper is all about bringing breakfast back... to every meal of the day. A well made breakfast is a thing of beauty, so why confine it to a period of time when almost nobody is awake enough to appreciate it? I don't know about you, but I'd be a glad dinner guest at any of our group's homes tonight!

Here's what's cookin':

And of course, here's what's drinkin':

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter each Sunday. We 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 fabulous recipes and food photos.

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

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Toast Topper #23: Exotic Apple-Pear Butter

Exotic Apple-Pear ButterIt's no secret around my house that I love apple butter. Actually, my mom and I love any kind of spreadable fruit (or vegetable-fruit) object - from the eerily accurate Grandma's Mock Apricot Jam to Triple Cherry Jam and even Blueberry Butter, there is almost nothing we won't try to spread on perfectly toasted bread. When I found myself with a bit more fruit than I could eat in one sitting (thanks to our purchase of local berries followed by a bumper crop of tiny strawberries from our garden), I got inspired to make a small batch of yet another Toast Topper. This time, though, I got extra inspiration from an ingredient that I had been dusting on my roasted broccoli and cauliflower since finding it at Bulk Barn: sumac. I love it's tangy, almost citrusy flavour (that also has a hint of a salty taste) on my savoury stuff, and it only took an accidental dusting of it on one of my apple slices to highlight how versatile it was. The fruit took on a sweeter, exotic tone, with a cleaner finish - and I couldn't wait to add it to my latest butter.

To play up the "exotic" angle of the spread, I also added in the merest hints of vanilla, nutmeg and cardamom, then lightly sweetened everything with a hint of maple syrup. It smelled amazing as it was cooking down, and it was a shame I made so little of it - the one jar I didn't water-bath can is long gone now, and the other one is squirreled away for holiday gifts so that we don't get at it sooner! It's thick, spiced and just sweet enough that it would make fantastic toast as well as an awesome accompaniment to roast pork or chicken.

Submitted to Wellness Weekends on Diet, Dessert and Dogs and Gluten Free Fridays on Vegetarian Mamma

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Watermelon Rind Chutney

My summertime canning is never complete without at least one chutney. I usually make a batch and preserve it near the beginning to middle of the season, when I have access to the greatest variety of fruit and vegetables - and enough time for the flavours to infuse and mellow before the holidays (when jars of it get tucked into gift baskets). I try to keep my batches small (I don't know that many people), but the fact is that chutney is really one of those "kitchen sink" preserves. Almost anything can find home in a batch, from zucchini to prunes, mango to rhubarb or even green tomatoes - what matters is turning it into a sweet-tart, moderately spiced condiment that is delicious on almost anything.

This year my "main ingredient" decision was made for me when I brought home the watermelon rind from school. Not really having a discernible flavour on its own, it has the ability (much like tofu, zucchini or eggplant) to soak up the flavours its surrounded with, at the same time as adding a great texture to the mixture (that is otherwise basically a puree). I also mixed in diced pears, homegrown American saffron (AKA Calendula), cloves, peppers, ginger and garlic... and would have added some of the boatload of raisins I had at home too if I had remembered! I also got a bit of help keeping the sugar down by using some of the Pyure Bakeable Blend Stevia I had on hand for half the sugar, and what sugar I did add was the rich, flavourful Demerara.

I think my favourite part about making this chutney was how forgiving it was in terms of cooking time - I basically set it to simmer and let it go gently while I heated up the canner (which any home-preserver knows takes forever to come to a boil). Granted, I'm not saying cook it all day - at least not if you want to keep a chunky texture - but between half an hour and and hour and a half will give you the most developed flavour while creating tender bites of rind in the tangy puree.

Submitted to Waste Not Want Not Wednesday

Watermelon Rind Chutney

Monday, July 15, 2013

Toast Topper #22: Watermelon Curd

While I was in the process of trying to use up all the leftovers from school, I started to hit a wall when it came to the actual flesh of the watermelons I found myself with. Obviously, jelly got made and canned, but I wondered what - if anything - else I could do with the puree I had made. Then I thought of last year's Vegan Strawberry Curd and the thought started to trickle down into action. I was going to turn my container of pink watermelon "water" into salmon-coloured curd.

Watermelon CurdI had to do a few things differently with this batch though. Watermelon is not overly sweet on it's own, and without due care doesn't take kindly to cooking - it is, after all, 90% water (however, I have seen recipes deep frying and grilling it). On the other hand, watermelon also lacks the acid of citrus used in traditional curds with egg, so if I went the classical route all I'd wind up with is pink, bland scrambled eggs. Not pleasing. Plus, adding eggs to the mix would defeat the whole "shelf life promotion" angle I was going for, not to mention seriously hinder it's uses in baking (a good deal of my "eaters" are vegan). So I took a cue from the strawberry recipe (thanks again, Carla!) and used a starch thickener and gentle heat to get to the end result.

Because of the high water content in the melon, making this curd required a good deal more starch than standard, and I opted for a blend of starches for better texture. More sweetener (in this case, both sugar and liquid stevia) and acid (a whole lemon) was also required for proper flavour, and to liven up the end result (and pay homage to the boozy original I had made) I whisked in an ounce of my stepbrother's homemade Meyer lemon Limoncello.

Watermelon Curd on Spicy Cheese CrackerAfter cooking, cooling and about an hour in the fridge, I couldn't wait any longer to try it - I dug in with a tasting spoon and licked. Interestingly, it didn't taste like watermelon, nor lemon... it was a totally unique, unusual, but no less delicious flavour with a tang that in some way reminded me of a Jolly Rancher candy. Spread onto spicy cheese crackers (recipes forthcoming), it was a combination that worked so well it was almost sinful!

What's left of it is now in the fridge - and I have some recipes that use it up too, don't worry!

Have you ever cooked with watermelon (and what did you make if you did)? Or were you (like me) totally unaware that it could be cooked?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Candied Watermelon Rind (Preserving the Harvest this #SundaySupper)

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I'm cheap. I can't bear to throw anything away if there's even the slightest chance it can be used by someone. I donate old clothes, books, toys and any unopened, unexpired food that I know my family isn't about to eat anytime soon - and thanks to the facility that's down the street from me that distributes goods to food banks, I can even give them my excess produce from the garden each year. But some things you can't give away, and are usually treated as garbage by both rich and poor. Things like watermelon rinds, of which I took 2 melons' worth home after the school had their end-of-the-year picnic. I had to de-rind the pieces for the toddlers and infants anyways, and couldn't believe there wasn't something tasty that could be done.

And lo and behold, that often-tossed rind from the favourite Summer BBQ fruit not only makes tasty pickles, but it has a host of other uses too! I definitely ran the gamut with my uses (and I'll be sharing them with you!), but I think my favourite find was this recipe from Not Quite Nigella. Now, Lorraine
calls this Macedonian combination of spices, sugar and melon rind a "jam", or "slatko"... but there's enough sugar in this sucker that it's really a form of candy (much like candied ginger in syrup). I deviated a little bit from the original flavourings, favouring cardamom pods and Szechuan peppercorns for an exotic, slightly floral experience. I didn't know what to expect, but what I got was a truly unique, addictive sweet treat - not only was it perfect to eat out of the jar (I wound up making two batches, but only canning one because of our sticky fingers!), but I'm definitely going to use it in baking like candied ginger too!

This #SundaySupper is all about keeping our summer harvests for as long as we can - whether  canning, freezing, drying or curing! This event is being hosted by Heather at Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks, and looks to be a bevy of delicious offerings as always!!

Cool Condiments:
Chow Chow Relish from Magnolia Days
Homemade Hot Dog Relish from Juanita's Cocina

Fabulous Fruits:
Apricot Ginger Jam from Happy Baking Days
Banana Jam from Killer Bunnies, Inc
Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream from Gotta Get Baked 
Blueberry Lemon Basil Jam from Daily Dish Recipes
Candied Watermelon Rind from What Smells So Good?
Fig and Strawberry Jam from Jane's Adventures in Dinner
Mixed Berry Rhubarb Jam from Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks
Mulberry Jam from Curious Cuisiniere 
Quick Peacharine Chutney from Shockingly Delicious
Pineapple Upside Down Cake Freezer Jam from Cookin' Mimi
Strawberry Butter from The Urban Mrs

Other Outstanding Recipes:
Fireweed Jelly from The Foodie Army Wife 
Flavoured Butters from Small Wallet, Big Appetite
Gravlax from That Skinny Chick Can Bake

Vivacious Vegetables:
Corn Cob Jelly from Blueberries and Blessings
Deep South Dilly Beans from Eat, Move, Shine
Fermented (Sour) Pickles from Growing Up Gabel 
Fire Roasted Salsa from Peanut Butter and Peppers
Hot and Spicy Giardiniera from The Messy Baker
Hot Italian Giardiniera from Healthy. Delicious.
Jalapeños en Escabeche (Pickled Jalapeños) from La Cocina de Leslie
Oi Kimchi (Korean Cucumber Kimchi) from kimchi MOM
Refrigerator Dill Pickles from Country Girl in the Village
Spicy Sweet Tomato Chutney from Food Lust People Love
Traditional Escabeche (Pickle) from Basic N Delicious

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

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Carob, Peanut and Cranberry Cookies

I don't get the marketing of certain foods sometimes. Take carob, for example: it's promoted as a "chocolate substitute", with varying reports as to it's health benefits over cacao products. While it's true that carob is caffeine and theobromine free, it is not chocolate in any sense of the word to this 70% cocoa-holic. Putting a hockey mask on Julia Roberts does not make her Jason, in other words.

That's not to say I have a vendetta against carob itself - in fact, I rather like it as it's own thing, without the association to chocolate or cocoa. It has a nice, "natural tasting" sweetness that plays particularly well with fruit and nuts, and is one of the few foods I actually like paired with them (I'm a fruit purist in particular). Carob chips, especially when they're naturally sweetened (I love Sunspire), have a slight malty tang to them as well that really takes out any cloying saccharin-esque notes from frosting or cookies (which necessarily have a higher sugar content).

I had been intending to try a vegan, carob-laced version of Fifi O'Neill's chocolate chip raspberry cookies from The Romantic Prairie Cookbook for a while now, and I finally got around to it! We don't have any dried raspberries around here though, so along with the carob chips, I swapped in raspberry flavoured dried cranberries, then added flaxseed for binding, and whole wheat flour for nutrition and flavour and chopped peanuts for an awesome crunch and an overall PB&J feel. While they look at first blush to be a simple chocolate chip cookie, the taste is anything but - one of the ladies in the group I shared them with described them as tasting "healthy yet decadent, both complex and comforting". Who am I to argue?

Carob and Cranberry Cookies (with Optional Peanut Crunch!)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sour Lemon Snowball Cookies (#EatingA2ZChallenge K & L)

I'm on a lemon (and blog event) roll these days! It's fitting, since I always associate lemons with Summer (even though their season here is mid-Winter), and if it's something that's both sweet and sour at the same time my family and I are all for it! I think the tang of citrus manages not only to cut any "sugary" (or bitter, for that matter) taste from foods, but quells the heat of the day as well. Given that it's been hot and humid in my neck of the woods, something refreshing for dessert is always nice - even if it does mean turning on the oven!

Half-Melted Lemon Snowballs
I actually didn't know how much of a lemon lover my mom was until I made these cookies from Chocolate Moosey the first time.As you can see, all the modifications I made to the original (more out of necessity than desire to mess with her recipe: cake flour, canola/butter blend, hard candy instead of lemon chips [and way more candy than called for because I didn't measure]) resulted in snowballs that were looking decidedly melty. I learned two important things with that experiment: SilPat is a godsend and there is such a thing as too much candy in a cookie! I was about to bin the batch (or at least the majority of them that were looking very wafer-like) when my mom swooped into the kitchen on her lunch break and asked what kind of cookies these were. I gave her one, with the caveat that they didn't turn out the way I had hoped and was planning to toss them, but after her first bite I was scolded for my foolishness because they tasted fantastic eve if they were the ugly ducklings in the kitchen. She proceeded to package up the lot for "nibblies" during the week, something rather remarkable to me given that lately she'd been very "iffy" about eating things I've made.

While the original "melting snowballs" may have gone over well on the home front, I was still aching to make the perfect sugar-dusted spheres that Carla had depicted. However, I still had no actual butter, and found out that lemon chips are essentially extinct in the GTA, so I knew I'd have to modify it again! Luckily, this go-round was way more conducive to reaching my goal of cookies that held their shape - the main fat component this time was light cream cheese (a leftover from school), and I decided to up the "sour" factor a bit more with some citric acid as well as sour hard candy. Because I can hardly make anything without a whole grain somewhere, I made the dough with oat flour - which aside from being gluten free makes for an incredibly tender bite. Baked, they stayed round and tangy, with the bright yellow peeking out from beneath the powdered sugar coating, and the cream cheese gave them a slightly chewy bite that we loved here.

Sour Lemon Snowball Cookies

It's time again for the Eating the Alphabet Challenge hosted by Meal Planning Magic! We're into the month of K and L and I can't wait to see what everyone has on their plates this roundup. Be sure to check out all the treats below!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Berry Powerful Muffins #DessertChallenge

How often can you have dessert for breakfast? I mean, it's hard for me to justify a doughnut, a toaster pastry, a slice of cake or one of those big-as-your-head mini cakes (masquerading as bakery muffins!) as a full meal option - given that they're essentially nutrition-devoid and calorie dense. Not that they aren't consumed that way... but to me, most of them don't even taste that good (or fresh) anymore since I started making my own grab-n-go treats.

Berry Breakfast Power MuffinsGranted, these lemon-blueberry muffins are still a treat - and can easily serve as dessert or an afternoon snack - but with lots of whole grains and protein with a minimal amount of fat and 1/3-1/2 the sugar of the coffee shop muffins, they won't set you back too far. Plus, they even have breakfast cereal (oatmeal as well as another Cheerios use up!), real fruit and yoghurt, so they're practically breakfast! I know I served them once for a school "brunch" function, and everyone who tried them loved the texture and "health factor" of the cereal and fruit.

Although there's no denying that they're sweet (I tossed in some white chocolate chips and "French vanilla" protein powder for an extra shot of decadence), they're still fresh-tasting thanks to a hearty addition of lemon zest and extract. The berries (besides being really good for you) add both colour and an extra burst of sweet-tart goodness. I can't think of a better way to start (or end) the day, can you?

Lady Behind the Curtain Dessert Challenge

These muffins were going to be my entry to the latest blog event I've joined up with - the Behind The Curtain Dessert Challenge on The Lady Behind the Curtain. Our theme this month is Blueberries & Lemon... a perfect combination if I do say so myself! Unfortunately I missed the linky time - but enjoy the goodies below anyways!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Coconut Caramels

Some may say I'm a glutton for punishment with these candies - after all, it's hot and humid as heck outside, I'm allergic to coconut and here I am turning on the stove and boiling sugar to make candy packed with coconut! 

That said, it was one of those things that I had been dying to try out for ages - could I make caramels without dairy or solid fat of any kind that could be cut and wrapped like the storebought chewy ones? Obviously someone has marketed the idea of coconut milk caramels already, but then I saw the recipe for this (originally Nigerian) sweet on Saveur and it got me could I make them even more coconutty? Ironically, the first thing I did was get rid of the coconut oil in the recipe, since it was only used to grease the pan and I simply lined it with parchment. Then, I broke out all the coconutty items I had on hand - shredded coconut for the bottom of the pan, coconut sugar and (obviously) the premium coconut milk - and set to work. Partway along I got inspired to add a hit of ginger for more tropical ambience and spice to offset the richness and sweetness of the candy.

Once they were cooled, I carefully began to cut them (I'm not kidding - I was wearing gloves to not pouf up) and they were everything I hoped for (according to my taste testers) - chewy, just slightly sticky caramels... 100% dairy free, lots of texture and flavour and the right amount of spice!  

Shared with Allergy-Free Wednesdays
Coconut Caramels

Coconut Caramels
Adapted from Saveur
Makes one 8" pan, 64 (1") squares
1/4 cup shredded coconut
14 oz can full fat, premium coconut milk
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 cups coconut sugar (or sucanat)
1/4 cup water
  1. Line an 8" pan with parchment and sprinkle with the coconut. Set aside.
  2. In a small pot warm the coconut milk, corn syrup, salt and ginger until steaming, stirring until smooth. Keep warm.
  3. In a large pot, cook the sugar with the water, without stirring, until it registers 230F on a candy thermometer.
  4. Stir in the hot coconut milk mixture and continue to simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 260F.
  5. Remove from heat and immediately pour into the lined pan.
  6. Let set 8 hours before cutting and wrapping (depending on the heat/humidity, you may find it easiest to chill these first).
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 36.7
Total Fat: 1.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 41.1 mg
Total Carbs: 7.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.0 g
Protein: 0.1 g

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Soused Prunes and Blueberries - Start NOW for Christmas!

While we still have 5 months or so before the big December 2-5, I've been thinking about and planning my food gifts since the first rounds of produce started appearing at the farmer's market. While giving cookies, mixes and canned items is certainly a way to help keep the holiday costs down, you do have to spend your time and energy creating them... and I don't know about you, but when it gets into that "crunch time" after Hallowe'en kitchen space and time is at a premium. Besides, a lot of canned things like pickles or chutneys get better as they age, so by starting now you know the recipients can crack into their jars right away and get the prime flavour potential.

That's definitely the case with these jars. Packed with a rather gourmet combination of prunes, dried blueberries and liquor, the marination period before packing them into individual jars takes at least 5 months... more if you have it. Of course, if you're reading this now, you only have 5 months... but since the fruit is packed in the boozy syrup it soaked in, it will just get better until they're all used up!

Soused Prunes and Blueberries

These morsels of tender fruit are also incredibly versatile - whether used as an accompaniment to roast game meats or pork (reminiscent of French Prunes in Armagnac) or served over yoghurt or pound cake for dessert! Don't toss that syrup either - that makes for a great cocktail mixer all on it's own after the prunes and blueberries are gone!

Submitted to Waste Not Want Not Wednesday

Monday, July 8, 2013

Gluten Free Fudgy Brownie Mix

I love baking mixes. No, not the mass produced, cardboard-enclosed, funky smelling ones you can pick up for a dollar on the grocery store shelf... I'm talking about make-and-store jars of dry ingredients you can do at home, with real ingredients, for a handful of change. Since realizing how easy (and cheap) it was to do, I've made a host of different dry mixes that are ready at a moment's notice - with  no preservatives, fillers or artificial anything!

I really appreciate the "home mix" philosophy when it comes to specialty baking (i.e. gluten / nut / dairy free). By making the dry mix ahead of time (usually the longest part of any GF recipe thanks to the mix of flours and starches you need), you reduce the risk of rushing and accidentally cross-contaminating something down the line - not to mention you can then have a batch of "safe" dessert (such as decadent brownies) ready as fast as a "regular" mix! With the quality and quantity of ingredients at your disposal, it's all too easy to sit down and enjoy your work!

Shared with Sugar & Slice Sunday, Recipe Sharing Monday and Mouthwatering Mondays

Gluten Free Brownie Mix

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Spicy Pear Bread

Spicy Pear Bread RecipeIt's remarkable what you re-discover when you clean out your bookshelf. Being a cookbook reviewer, I'm confronted with the issue of never really getting the chance to try out every recipe I want to in a particularly good volume... especially when I'm constantly being inspired to cook and bake from fellow bloggers instead! 

I finally decided to clean up my bookshelf (and my room, for that matter... it's a scary place) the other day and noticed that a lot of the tomes on the shelf still had "make me" sticky notes on the pages. One book that caught my eye was Prairie Home Breads: 150 Splendid Recipes from America's Breadbasket by Judith Fertig, since I remembered having great success with one of the other loaves in it and knew there was a handful of very interesting ones left to try! Since I was due to make a loaf of bread for Mom anyways I leafed through and settled on the Spicy Pear Bread given what I had on hand, even though my mom is a little ambivalent about the fruit.

Spicy Pear Bread Dough

Apparently this bread is known as bierenbrot in it's homeland of  Switzerland and came to American plates via Wisconsin. However, since I was making it for my mom and not an über-traditional Swiss native, I knew I had to make a few modifications for her tastes. One of my favourite spices - cardamom - replaced the anise, followed by a good glug of pear liqueur, brown sugar, butter (not lard) and some whole wheat bread flour. I only had instant yeast on hand, so I used that instead. The dough is very moist and sticky, and the loaf will overflow your loaf pan if your pears are anything bigger than tiny, but that all translates into a moist, sweet, chewy result! If you're overly worried about the volume of dough you've got, you can make 2 or 3 buns in greased jumbo muffin tins and bake those for 20-25 minutes too.

Spicy Pear Bread

Submitted to Yeastspotting

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Chip-Chip Funfetti Cookies

Just over six years ago, I was stuck at home, bored and alone, while trying to recover from a severe, sudden illness that forced me to leave university. I had nothing to do but watch TV, the house was in an upheaval as we had just moved the past Fall, and I had nothing to truly say I was accomplishing from day to day. I was bored, to put it lightly, and without a car or much money I needed something to do at home that was useful (a girl can only clean so much). I started watching the Food Network more, which got me itching to get back into the kitchen and see if I could make things that fit my new food intolerances and allergies that still tasted decent, if not delicious.

The family wasn't overly intrigued by my tales of what I was cooking up or interested in eating a meal that I had made, though. Then I stumbled onto the world of food blogging and became an avid reader, taking delight in that there were other food obsessed people like me, who actually put themselves out there and weren't ashamed to put their food on display. Eventually, on Canada Day 2007, What Smells So Good? was born, and I haven't looked back. The blog has followed me through relationships, three schools, numerous jobs and over 1000 recipes, and I'm so thankful each and every day that readers gave me a chance to grow and develop my skills. Joining Twitter connected me even more with foodies I admired and allowed me to reach out for help when I needed it - and I'm glad to say I've met a handful of my contacts and they were all as wonderful in person as they were online. When #RecipeRedux and #SundaySupper came along, I really felt part of a family, and the other events I take part in solidify it even more.

Chip-Chip Funfetti Cookies

In case you haven't figured it out yet, this is my "happy blog anniversary to me" shindig. I was late this year, and didn't bring pie like my first two anniversaries, but I did something fun instead - funfetti! Are you sick of funfetti everything yet? I wouldn't normally toss the rainbow sprinkles into this cookie dough, since it already had two types of chips (and is basically a mashup of junk food with a smattering of nutrition), but this was my "farewell" gift to the kids at school on the last day - each cookie in it's own little bag with the child's name on the tag - and it was a celebration as much as it was a sad day. Ironically, I made these based off a Paula Deen recipe shortly before the snafu broke (and I'm keeping my opinions to myself on that one), but made enough variations to the original that I'll share my version.

These were also part and parcel of my "use it up" movement, with all our sprinkles, leftover "birthday party" potato chips, and other random items! I made my cookies dairy free and part whole grain, as well as using low sodium chips and a squish of honey (plus the obvious chocolate and sprinkles). Not something I'd make often, but hey, it's an anniversary party, right?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Toast Topper #21: Watermelon Jelly

Happy Canada Day everyone! Things are pretty quiet around here (mom and stepdad are off at a baseball game), but since it's too gloomy out to be greening my thumbs right now I resorted to my first love - cooking!

This low-sugar jelly came about thanks to a goodly amount of watermelon left over from school (are you surprised?), and since I had some PureVia Granulated style stevia on hand (as well as two bright new boxes of Pomona's pectin - my personal favourite for jamming since I can use less sugar) I wanted to see if a low-sugar jelly with the infamously watery melon was possible (I also made some delicious watermelon jerky in the dehydrator, thanks to theKitchn inspiring me). Pureed melon, a touch of "real" sugar, lemon juice and the stevia went into the pot with the required Pomona's cocktail and I crossed my fingers. The result was perfect for Summer PB&Js or making a toasted bagel breakfast in the dead of winter (if you can it, like I did) - set but not so gelatinous that you can't spread it, just sweet enough with a little tang. Not to mention, it's full of natural watermelon flavour and colour! 

Watermelon Jelly

And I didn't simply toss the rinds into the compost either - those all got saved for a few more preserved treats - and they aren't necessarily what you think!

Are you a watermelon fan, or do you have another favourite Summer fruit? Let me know in the comments.