Sunday, February 28, 2016

Jamaican “No-Beef” Patties #SundaySupper

Are you a sweet or a savoury pie person? If you ask me, more often than not you'll hear me wax poetic about the virtues of a perfectly balanced cherry pie, my mom's sugarless apple pastry, mincemeat tarts for my dad or even memories of my grandma's shoofly mini-pies. Obviously, I'm primed for dessert-pie territory. That said, after thinking about this week's #SundaySupper theme of "Pies - Sweet and Savoury", I realized I enjoy more savoury ones than I thought - many incarnations of cottage and tamale pie (a loose interpretation, granted), deep dish pizzas, Tourtière and Spanakopita.

I had even forgotten about one of the mainstays of my childhood excursions to the corner store after school - Jamaican Beef Patties! Perfectly packaged for on-the-go eating, flaky, spicy and just filling enough for lunch or an after school snack (if you were like me and most of my friends, who had a lunch period at 11:20AM and didn't eat dinner till 8), they were easily spied in the warming cases by their brilliant yellow pastry, the "hot" ones dotted with a single red spot you had to search for before biting into. Making them never occurred to me as a project, though, since I've always been the only one who enjoyed that level of heat, and now with my GI issues severely limiting the amount of fat I can ingest (and excluding meat entirely), any pastry concoction is basically out the window.

Jamaican “No-Beef” Patties
I love his filling over a bed of rice!
Right before Christmas last year, though, one of my students was asking me how to make them - her dad's birthday was coming up and she wanted to surprise him with patties and a birthday cake. Now, given that she was only 6, any kind of cooking in the kitchen would have to be supervised intensively, and though I planned to do an afternoon with her life on both ends got in the way. I had promised to make some, though - and in the spirit of using what I had on hand decided to make these almost 100% meat free by using the super-economical TVP I had in the pantry as a base, "fleshing" it out with broth, vegan Worcestershire and veggies and encasing it in a tallow-based pastry dough I had gleaned from an old cookbook of my mom's and spiked with curry powder and turmeric. The home-rendered tallow gave the crust the ultimate flake and just the right amount of "umami" without smelling or tasting like untrimmed steak. That said, I know now many people go about rendering beef fat for kicks at home (actually, I'm pretty sure that's just me...) but I would recommend finding quality suet or leaf lard from a butcher as a substitute, or if you wanted to make the whole recipe vegan swapping in either Earth Balance sticks or coconut oil.

Even without the pastry (which I obviously couldn't eat), the filling itself was divine - in fact better than the patties of my childhood. It's heavily dosed with allspice, thyme and Jamaican curry powder, is 100% vegan and is perfect over rice, stuffing a baked potato or mixing with roasted cauliflower. For the full monty though, nothing beats a true blue (or yellow) patty!

Jamaican “No-Beef” Patties

Sweet As Pie
Mealtime Pie

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Sweet Veggie Protein Bars

Whee! The Rise Up And Shine II event I've been yakking about for weeks is sold out - I am thrilled we'll be able to donate so much money and raise so much awareness for Plan Canada's initiative!

Of course, that many energetic, exercise-loving participants means a lot of hungry people at the end of the 3 hour marathon, and if last year's activity is any indication the food table will be decimated by clean-up time! Never a bad thing, obviously - and I knew I wanted to contribute a few "healthier" snacks that would also be safe for anyone with celiac or a gluten intolerance. Protein bars immediately popped into my head, and since I still had some pumpkin left over (not to mention an open bag of delicious, gluten free granola on hand) and a recent trip to my second home found me with a bag of kañiwa - something I'd heard of on the 'net but never tried (FYI - it's delicious, especially mixed with amaranth in a "pilaf"!). I was hesitant to try it at first, since it's cousin quinoa is not exactly my best friend (I just can't get over it's flavour as a grain... the flour baked into things is A-OK!) but I was pleasantly surprised by the nutty, almost sweet flavour it had - and the lack of saponins means no rinsing for ages!!

The nutritional profile is impressive too - single 3.5 ounce serving of gluten free kañiwa seeds holds 31% of the recommended daily fibre intake for adults, it has more high-quality protein than quinoa, (16% vs 13%) and is packed with B vitamins and antioxidants to boot! For a little extra protein, skim milk and whey protein powders mixed into the already protein-rich flour blend, and I bumped up the fibre with psyllium, carrots, flax and a brown rice bran and germ powder.

Phew! All this good stuff crammed into a gluten free bar that tastes like a mixture of carrot cake and pumpkin pie, with a decadent crunch in every bite? I'm sold!

Sweet Veggie Protein Bars

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Pumpkin-Mango Granola Pucks #thereciperedux

With only a week to go until Rise Up And Shine II, I've been turning my attention towards making some healthy, hearty, "power foods" for both the volunteers and the participants. Of course, Nature's Path has made things a lot easier for everyone to stay "on their path" by giving me an awesome selection of their cereals (the same ones you'll get if you win my giveaway!). Granola bars are definitely one of the most obvious "healthy" snacks out there, but they're usually made with raw oats, not to mention a boatload of sugar and fats. That's the way the original recipe I chose to tweak was too - and while the sweetness factor is still on the "high" side, by weight my version still has less sugar, calories, sodium and fat than a storebought bar and is full of extra nutrition from the pumpkin, rice bran, natural peanut butter and (of course) the star of the show - a full box of Nature's Path Chia Plus Coconut Chia Granola! To play off the "Thai" vibe I was getting from the coconut, peanut butter and pumpkin, I tossed in the leftover dried mango from my "Tablespoon" Trail Mix too. The more the merrier!

Pumpkin-Mango Granola Pucks

The "puck" shape of these treats makes them the ultimate portable breakfast, although it does take a little finessing to transform the moist, sticky batter from "gluey" to "chewy". Being thicker than your standard "bar" means that in order to keep the texture consistent, it takes a "two part" baking system: first in the muffin tin until set, but still soft, then free-standing on a sheet tray until the bottoms and sides crisp up a little bit. You'll never get "crunchy" granola bars, obviously - the lack of added oil and the abundance of pumpkin in these will see to that - but they have a toothsome quality and a definite ability to fill you up before or after a workout without giving you a major sugar hangover! I knew I had hit the jackpot when the photo I posted to Instagram got a like and a recipe request from the @naturespathorganic team - not to mention the craving from my coworkers! 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Crunch - Topped Peanut Butter Cinnamon Roll Pudding

It's no secret that we have a few peanut butter fans in the family. I mean really, the spread is such an iconic emblem of childhood - at least for my generation and older, who were allowed to bring PB sandwiches to school for at least some of their youth - and as we've grown older, the possible uses of a jar have expanded to fill both savoury and sweet voids equally. I for one would not pass up a slab of rye bread thickly spread with creamy peanut butter and drizzled with local honey, nor would I ignore  a mole sauce using freshly ground, sugar free peanut "paste". My mom is famous for serving a jar of Kraft and a loaf of French bread with her chili, and loves the richness a dollop or two adds to hearty dishes like Thai Vegetable-Peanut Noodles, West African Beef and Peanut Stew and Kale and Sweet Potato Stew.

In terms of numbers (and fervor), my circle of family and friends contains just as many fans of French toast and bread pudding. I'm staunchly in the "French toast only" camp, preferring the slightly crispy egg layer on the outside of the bread to a moist custard-like concoction, but my dad's side of the family is 100% passionate for the pudding. When I found myself with a large (and rather dried out) cinnamon roll left over from a potluck platter, an open carton of rice milk, one lone egg and a jar of 100% natural peanut butter this long weekend, I immediately thought of whipping up a version of the "usual" recipe baked in jars instead of a pudding mould.

As I was waiting on the bread to soak, the open bag of  Nature’s Path Gluten Free Fruit & Nut Granola caught my eye. I instantly thought of using a spoonful of the crunchy cereal to crown my sweet, eggy jars of goodness, and after pulling the pan out of the oven, the absolutely stellar aroma proved my thoughts correct. Even though I'm not as passionate about eggy bread as some people (looking at you, dad!) I don't think I'd ignore the offer of splitting a jar for dessert.

Peanut Butter Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding

One of my favourite things about bread pudding is it's sheer versatility - for example, this recipe is dairy free depending on the cinnamon roll you choose. Annie’s and Bunner’s cinnamon rolls are both dairy free options... or use an equal weight of "safe" cinnamon bread or bagels for an equally delicious option!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Flax Flake Rye Bread

When I bake bread around here, it's got to have heft to it. My mom and I (and now, even my formerly-wonder bread sister) are 100% on the "whole grain" train when it comes to our toast and bagels, loving their dark, rich flavours against a whole range of toppers. Hearty loaves are the perfect vessels for inclusions too, their variations in texture and flavour almost "lightening" a loaf made with a denser flour like rye or barley. When I got my gift box from Nature's Path at the same time the need for a new loaf arose (we finally made it through holiday / birthday leftovers!) I couldn't wait to see what I could use this time.

What evolved over several hours was a slightly sweet, dark rye-wheat dough that I packed with hearty Flax Plus® Multibran Flakes (well, those that I didn't eat right out of the bag) and Gluten Free Fruit & Nut Granola. A touch of traditional caraway and my "cheat" four sourdough (cider vinegar) added to the "hearty rye" flavour without overshadowing the molasses and dark agave I used. This bread was, oddly enough, better tasting on the second or third day than freshly cooled, but truly any which way it was a fantastic start or supplement to the day!

Flax Flake Rye Bread

Don't forget to enter the #OnMyPath Giveaway! You can win an awesome prize pack of Nature's Path goodies or even ORGANIC GRANOLA FOR A YEAR!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

"Tablespoon" Trail Mix (and a @naturespathorganic #OnMyPath Giveaway!)

It's horrible how long it's taken me to get back to writing - I don't have much of an excuse other than laziness and a sprained wrist, but rest assured I've been blog-hopping as I doze my evenings away after work!

I've never been a "great" breakfast eater, even now that I start my days at 5:30AM. I don't really get hungry until close to noon, but will enjoy a handful of dry, cold cereal on my way to work, especially if it's chunky, crunchy and just barely sweet. "Cereal with milk" was never a part of my growing up, and I truly can't get my head around the texture no matter what my friends and family say. While the "standard" cold cereals remain drowned in dairy around here, I think I may have found a brand to convert the die-hards: Nature's Path.

BreakkieThis isn't the first time I've written about my love for this organic, largely gluten free cereal brand, and for good reason. Ever since Nature’s Path cereal and granola entered my shopping cart a few years ago, I was hooked on the hearty whole grains, fruit and nuts in products like Flax Plus Pumpkin Raisin Crunch, Crunchy Vanilla Sunrise, and Summer Berries Granola. On the more decadent side, almost the whole Love Crunch® line soon fell into rotation as a topping for applesauce and yogurt at breakfast, "fake baked" (AKA microwaved) apple halves as a mid-afternoon snack or ice cream for dessert. Recently, my oatmeal-loving self has discovered their Gluten Free, Organic Homestyle Instant Oatmeal, which comes in a handy (if somewhat hefty, at 40g vs 28g) pre-portioned pack and  (unlike many other brands) doesn't cause my skin to flare up like a bad sunburn after eating it. Finally, the kid in my still loves the sweet, cinnamon-toast crunch of Envirokidz Cinnamon Jungle Munch® Cereal, especially when I mix it with the "grown up", plain Whole O’s™ for my on-the-road "faux-fast".

With the Rise Up And Shine II Plan Canada Dance Fitness Fundraiser coming up (featuring my new role as a "Kiddie Korner" supervisor!), I've been playing around with various ingredients in the pantry to come up with an easy, filling, kid-friendly snack mix to serve (and have the kids take home as a "loot bag"). Since I needed to keep nuts out of the equation, and wanted to keep remaining allergens to a minimum, using Nature's Path cereal was an easy choice - as was swapping in roasted chickpeas and soybeans for the traditional nuts. A mix of delicious dried fruit added chewy contrast and just a touch of chocolate bumped up the kid-pleasing power. Best of all, the recipe for one serving (as written here) is so simple it easily scales as you need it, and since all you need is a tablespoon there are precious few things to dirty along the way!

Make sure to stay tuned - more delicious and decadent treats with Nature's Path cereals and granola are coming down the pipeline!

"Tablespoon" Trail Mix

"Tablespoon" Trail Mix
Makes 1 serving
1 tbsp dry-roasted, salted chickpeas
1 tbsp dry-roasted, salted soy nuts
1 tbsp diced dried mangoes
1 tbsp diced dried apples
1 tbsp raisins
1 tbsp dark chocolate covered raisins (I found these vegan ones at the health food store and used them)
1/4 cup (4 tbsp) dry cereal (I used a mix of Nature's Path Whole O’s™ Cereal and Envirokidz Cinnamon Jungle Munch®)
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a plastic bag or bowl.
  2. Enjoy!
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 276.1
Total Fat: 5.4 g
Cholesterol: 1.3 mg
Sodium: 161.0 mg
Total Carbs: 52.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.3 g
Protein: 7.4 g

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Now for the real treat... not one, but two, Nature’s Path #OnMyPath Giveaways!