Monday, August 29, 2016

Blissful Cherry Recipes with @cheribundi

This Summer, the temperatures have risen to record high numbers. Even though the season is winding down (I hate saying that!), it's still plenty warm, and we all need to keep well hydrated regardless of the weather! These delicious and nutritious Cheribundi Tart Cherry Juice recipes definitely make hydration a breeze - and a flavour-packed one at that. Cheribundi’s refreshing taste, and fun red color is a perfect way to drink in concentrated antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients while making almost everything you add it to Instagram-beautiful.

More then 150 pro and college sports teams use Cheribundi for its health benefits too, and tart cherry juice certainly has its fair share of them. These include anti-inflammation and pain relief - something that my family (including avid gardeners, gym buffs and arthritis sufferers) definitely need on a daily basis. Below are a few of Cheribundi's favourite recipes to try out for yourself!



Cheri Pop
Who doesn’t love an ice cold Popsicle on a blazing summer afternoon. This snack is great for a day of hanging out in the pool, or after long day at the park. So simple, so delicious, two ingredient Popsicle.
32oz Cheribundi tart cherry juice (or any of your favorite Cheribundi variations)
1 popsicle mold
  1. Take delicious Cheribundi juice and pour the 32oz bottle into your popsicle mold. (If the mold doesn’t come with it’s own handles, add 1 popsicle stick into the mold.) 
  2. Put the mold in the freezer until solid. 
  3. Remove the popsicles from the mold, and you have yourself a super simple frozen treat to keep you cool this summer.



Chillin' Cheri Snowcone
Break out that electric ice shaver you haven't used since your last kid turned 5, and turn down summer's heat wave with frosty fresh-pressed tart cherry juice snow cones.
Electric ice shaver
8 oz Cheribundi Tart Cherry Juice
Ice
  1. Shave ice into a cone cup, and then pour delicious Cheribundi Tart Cherry Juice over the top.
  • You can also pour Cheribundi into ice cube trays and shave the frozen tart red juice right into the cones for a simple, delicious, healthy treat that's ready in mere seconds!

Mom’s Cheri Treat
Even moms need a break from the heat this summer. This icy cold treat with a little kick is the perfect solution.
4 oz dry limeade mix
1 Tbsp. lime juice
4 cups cold water
2 cups of Cheribundi tart cherry juice
1 cup tequila
3/4 cup triple sec
  1. Mix all ingredients into a large pitcher, and stir to combine. 
  2. Pour into plastic cups with lids and cap. 
  3. Freeze for up to 5 hours. Remove when ready to drink!

Thanks again to the folks at Cheribundi. Not only did they share an amazing, delicious and healthy treat  with me, but their customer service staff are beyond wonderful! They went above and beyond to make sure I received my package (even when UPS didn't want to play ball) and followed up to make sure everything was A-OK! I'm looking forward to seeing their products in my local stores in the GTA.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Herbed Salsa #SundaySupper

Every year when I plant my garden I have four "big things" in mind: roasted beets (and their versatility both sweet and savoury), carrot cake, lemon balm chicken and salsa. I have always loved the chunky, spicy condiment, and I totally credit (or blame) my parents for crafting my iron stomach for peppery heat - whether fresh or dried, chilies are really the only peppers I like! 

This year I really got my garden aligned with salsa-making.    

Herbed Salsa

The goodness of fresh cilantro, garlic, lemon balm and lime finds a home with roasted peppers, tomatoes, Egyptian onion and a good hit of lime all came together in a "Summer Saturday" marriage of flavours. A bite of this chunky, spicy dip is full of the brightness of the season, and works even if your tomatoes died out in the drought or fell victim to blossom-end rot this year (had my fair share of both)... a can of salt-free diced tomatoes makes an admirable stand-in for the fresh ones, and if you don't like the "edge" of tomato skin in your salsa, opening a can gets you out of the blanch-peel boat too. Personally, I go canned unless my tomatoes are practically bleeding their juicy sweetness, in which case I make sure to use at least double the amount - I know I'll eat half!


Cilantro,  garlic, lemon balm and lime... any guesses?
Mmm, herby!


As foodies, we have the natural instinct to stretch out the goodness of the season as far as we can. We do this by finding the best ways to preserve the harvest. Our #SundaySupper team is celebrating this tradition this week! Check out all our offerings below:

Condiments
 
Main dishes

 
Sides

 
Snacks

 
Dessert

 
Beverage

Sunday Supper Movement

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

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

Friday, August 26, 2016

Pasta-touille

My sister, Mom and I have somewhat of an inside joke when it comes to ratatouille. Every Summer when our three tomato and two zucchini plants in the backyard started their overproduction, us kids would dutifully go out and pick to our heart's content, eating our weight in cherry tomatoes and comparing the length (and width) of our zucchinis (insert NSFW joke here). Like most kids, the cherry tomatoes were always an easy sell veggie-wise, but before I really became as much of a veggie-addict as I am today, zucchini, eggplant and peppers wrinkled my nose. Not so with Mom. She'd pick out a big eggplant or two from the store on a "harvest weekend" and cook a big ol' pot of ratatouille, eating it all week on (and in) everything, often convincing my dad to do the same. However, the sudden influx of vegetation challenged the digestion of my parents slightly, leading to us re-naming the dish "rataTOOTy". Yes, it was (is?) hilarious, especially to a 9 year old at the dinner table.

Pasta-touille

That said, I'm now a proud member of the "rat pack", and when our garden's zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers start producing in sync you can bet various versions of the dish find their way into our weekly meals. I was looking for a way to make ratatouille more than a simple vegetable side dish without compromising the textures and flavours of the original, making it something to serve for dinner as opposed to with dinner. Inspiration struck when we were organizing photo albums and found a picture of mom with a bowl of ratatouille and a small scoop of KD (life with kids!). I started playing around with the idea of baking noodles and the veggie medley together in a casserole, and as I cooked, I added more and more goodies from the pantry, fridge and freezer. What I wound up with was a beautiful (if I do say so myself), hearty, healthy "pasta-touille". Not only did it contain TONS of the standard vegetables, but it had lentils, goat cheese, fresh Mozzarella and a teeny bit of skinless chicken breast too.

Since I was using pasta as an ingredient (and a surprisingly tasty potato-based one at that), I decided to add a second "noodle", spiralizing the zucchini. The whole medley bakes up into a delicious, full-flavoured dish that also freezes well - good thing too, because it made a ton!

Do you add extra ingredients that you have on hand as you go to a recipe, even if they're not called for? How do you like to eat summer veggies?

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Blueberry Beet Butter - Toast Topper #73

Every Summer it seems like I make a few standard items to can for the Winter months - whether it's for us to enjoy here at home or to give away during the holidays, a jar of something delicious always seems to warm the heart and be appreciated! A few of the recipes I riff on every year are chutney (my favourite being this Moroccan Tomato one), mincemeat (like this Downton Abbey "mockycat"), some sort of pasta sauce and - our current favourite Toast Topper - blueberry butter. The gloriously thick, sweet-tart spread is one of those that everybody loves - the eaters because it's delicious, the cooks because it's drop dead easy to make.

Blueberry Beet Butter

In fact, the (original) recipe is essentially three ingredients - blueberries, apples and sugar. After that, the possibilities are more or less endless! The first time I made it (way back in Toast Topper #2!), I used vanilla sugar, allspice and nutmeg. by the time Toast Topper #32 came about, I was tossing in lemon zest and pure pomegranate juice. This time around I took the recipe down a whole other road - adding a glug of red wine, some date syrup, and a garden fresh, dark red beet. 

Yes, a beet. I love the root veggie in pretty much any and every form, and already know how well it works in sweet things (brownies, anyone?), adding that subtle earthy note to the sugar and berry flavours. It is, as I said, subtle - you're not going to bite into your English muffin and go "yum, I'm eating borscht for breakfast". Rather, you're likely going to go on the hunt for some natural peanut butter and make yourself a grown up PB&J. Who says we have to grow up?

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Spiralized Sunomono

It's been a while since I broke out my Spiralizer - during the colder months, the lack of economical, "spiralize-able" veggies drops significantly, leaving not much around but carrots, potatoes and beets. I'm not sure if it's my model or not (I do have a fairly high-end one, though not the top of the tier) but the harder roots basically "shred" more than "twirl" in the machine, and make cleaning it a royal pain. Therefore, once the cucumber, zucchini and even apples fade away from their place as "peak" produce, so does the machine.

Spiralized Sunomono

However, at this moment, we have lots of Summer squash options coming in from the garden. Not only do we have our usual crops of zucchini, but there's some yellow squash and my long-awaited cucumbers as well. While I originally put in the cucumbers for pickling, the latest burst of rain and hot, humid weather acted like a natural steroid for my plants. By the time I got back out into the (somewhat dried-off) garden, I found two baby cucumbers that had been decimated by the storm and a single, rather large specimen that would not be fitting into any pickle jar soon! Luckily, I had a different use for it in mind - one of my favourite Japanese salads, called sunomono, is essentially a sweet-sour-salty pickled cucumber salad topped with sesame seeds. A breeze to whip up with the Spiralizer, it was also beautiful done that way, and if you let the cucumber "drain" a little on tea towels before assembling it holds quite well. In fact, drained enough, it gets better as it sits - just add the seed garnish at the last minute and you have a light and refreshing, vegan cucumber salad perfect for Summer get togethers (or solitary noshing)!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Brownie Brittle

I am a "brownie edge" person. Don't get me wrong - give me a pan of fudgy, dense brownies and it will disappear entirely without complaints - but if it's a choice between the soft centre and the crisp-chewy borders of a freshly baked pan, I'm going for the trimmings. My dad and I share the same love for that slightly overbaked texture, and while we don't like teeth-shattering crunch, we'll gladly take the bits most people wouldn't serve.

Brownie Brittle
Serving them in a coffee can is a great way to tie in the mocha flavour!

It was my search for this "golden medium" that landed me at this recipe. A relatively basic, Kamut-flour brownie got a little built-in "chew" from egg whites and custard powder, plus a "grown up" boost from brewed coffee and espresso powder. They're double-baked (a la biscotti) and left to cool in the oven, ensuring that they dry out enough to store safely at room temperature while staying ever-so-slightly yielding to chewing. Brittle really isn't the right name for these, but both "brewies" and "chettle" sound weird, so the original name for the treats I've seen in store it is!

I left out nuts and chocolate chips from the batter (they make spreading evenly tricky!) but couldn't resist a handful of bittersweet beauties scattered overtop. I might try making a batch soon with one of my favourite combinations - peanut butter and chocolate - by using a little peanut flour instead of the custard powder and a mix of peanut butter and chocolate chips overtop. The door is open for possibilities!!

How do you like your brownies? Soft, cakey, dense, fudgy... as much chocolate as you can stand?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Maple Pecan Blueberry Bread

Well, another Olympics is in the books, and (to toot our own horn) Canada did respectably - 22 medals, 4 more than the London Games and only 3 shy of the last Winter Olympics. While I admittedly didn't watch most of the Games (not a sports person in the least), I am still immensely proud of my country and how our athletes represented the values of our nation and the Games as a whole. 


Maple Pecan Blueberry Bread

In celebration, I decided to capitalize on a few hallmarks of Canadian cuisine to make our weekly loaf of bread. First, I infused some locally made butter with a mixture of Jakemans Pure Maple Syrup and my go-to Grade B (which is now apparently called "Dark Colour and Robust Taste"). Then came the Canadian-grown whole wheat and soy flours as well as a handful of flax seed for texture. To add some fruitiness, home-dried wild blueberries peppered the dough. While not Canadian, I added some pecans to the loaf as well. My mom loves pecan butter tarts, and the occasional buttery crunch just adds extra decadence to morning toast.

Sliced, toasted and topped with butter (or almost any Toast Topper), the loaf was delicious and hearty... and just Canadian enough to be "I am Canadian" cliche. Time to break out the plaid, Mountie gear and canoes!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Strawberry Lemonade Cookies

Now that the CNE is on (along with it's wonderfully weird mystical food building), I know that the end of Summer is nigh. It's a rather bitter-sweet moment, since these past few months have been filled with great times with family, chances to get to the gym and even enjoying the (occasionally frustrating) forays into the garden. Of course, I've been playing with the produce I've been able to pick and procure from the farmer's markets, and since my herbs have finally decided to play ball in their boxes I've been using them in both sweet and savoury things any time I get a chance.

Strawberry Lemonade Cookies

One of the great things I've rediscovered with my herbs is infusing - both salt and sugar this year have been herb-ified in my garden. A jar of cheap Kosher salt met up with a few of my rosemary sprigs for a gourmet-tasting pantry staple ready for Fall or Winter roast chicken, while nasturtium blossoms and lemon balm have made some fantastic (and beautiful) jars of sugar. It was the lemon balm sugar, along with a lemonade mix that a student of mine had gifted me, that inspired these carnival-sized, summer sunny yellow cookies. Inspired by Averie's recipe, I added fresh lemon balm to the mixture of infused sugar and strawberry lemonade mix for a pop of fresher "what could this be?" flavour. Tons of lemon zest followed suit, along with a shot of lemon extract and even lemon juice for kicks (and leavening!). I opted for a tiny touch of yellow food colouring to make the Kamut flour's natural golden hue pop, but of course it's optional!

How do you celebrate Summer (or it's swan song)? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Mango - Raspberry Jam Toast Topper #72

When it comes to summery-tasting Toast Toppers, my favourites are always those with a blend of seasonal Ontario fruit and a hint of tropical flair. Our summers are not always the nicest (although this year has been gloriously hot - which I love but others detest) and adding that little bit of "guaranteed sunshine" livens up even the most pallid fruit at our local markets.

Mango - Raspberry Jam

Usually, making blends like this also involved a bit of finesse and planning - the tropical fruit is at its peak during the winter here, so that's when I buy, process and freeze it. Not only do I get great flavour this way, but I save money too (and leftovers make great smoothies in February!). Once the Ontario fruit begins appearing in the stores, I pick up baskets here and there, bulk-buying when they're on sale or hitting up the orchard and market that IQFs part of their harvest if I need more than a pint or so. By far, the best fruit I've procured this year have been raspberries and peaches, and this past winter mangoes were (almost literally) a dime a dozen. When I found myself with a freezer bag of each a few weeks ago - and no jam in the freezer - I took the opportunity to throw both fruits into a pot with a few packets of instant honey-ginger crystals and a pinch of cardamom, cooking them into a chunky semi-puree. A pinch of fresh lemon balm brightened up the flavours just enough so that even when thickened with pectin and stashed for a week or so, it tasted fresh and summery - not at all sugar-laden, which can often happen with "tropical" type preserves.

After watching the Jamaica-Canada Olympic battle this past week, I've been wishing I made more of this spread! My mom commented it was a great representation of the Islands and Canada, so if you're hosting any sort of (belated) Olympic brunch this would be great spread to break out too. For me? I simply find it perfect for eating!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

"Almost Famous" Coating Mix

If you live in North America, you've very likely tried the infamous KFC. Even if you don't, God knows that the name, logo and "11 secret herbs and spices" tagline have graced your eyes and ears more than once (apparently there are over 15,000 restaurants in more than 125 countries right now). The mixture is a closely-guarded secret, and while lots of people have attempted to crack the code, I can only find varying reports as to authenticity.

"Almost Famous" Chicken Breading Mix

So, when I was looking to create a recipe for a seasoned "coating" mix for the kids at school to give as Father's Day gifts, I took inspiration from the various sources Google provided me and essentially meshed them all together. I tried out a few batches on my thankfully understanding family, who declared this final round a winner - spicy but not hot, not too salty, perfectly crispifying and - ironically - tasting nothing like the classic. We're not big on deep-fried anything in general, and my parents and I always eschewed the restaurant versions of fried chicken as being far too salty (fish n' chips, on the other hand, we love - especially with beer batter!).

Non-frying aside, the mixture of my 12(!) flavourings, flour and breadcrumbs provided the perfect balance to buttermilk-soaked chicken, as well as pork chops and potato wedges. For a hotter kick, I'd toss in some jalapeno or chipotle powder, which would make for some killer curly fries. It's just as easy to whip up a huge batch of this and portion it into 1 1/2 cup -filled baggies as it is to make a single portion, which is a good thing - who knows what else we'll find to crust!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Garlic Scape Vegan Omelette

Ever since I first made Scrambled Tofu, I've been trying to figure out more ways to incorporate it's deliciousness into my diet. While I'm not historically a giant fan of eggs, I didn't mind myself a good omelet now and again, especially if it was laced with green veggies (my passion was roasted asparagus), laced with garlic, sprinkled with gratuitous amounts of pepper and dusted with cheese. Like I mentioned before, a crispy, crusty bottom was (and still is!) a must - I need that extra toasty texture.

I got the idea to try a "whipped tofu omelette" sometime after the scramble came to be, but wasn't sure if it had been done (and to what extent it worked). Eventually, I stumbled across Susan's Vegan Omelet and decided to try it out, mixing it with what I had in mind for texture and flavour. Garlic scapes recently brought home from the market filled my need for the garlic and green veggie component, while a dose of vegan Parmesan added another "cheesy" layer to the nutritional yeast. To get my coveted "crispiness", I stuck the pan of mostly-set "not-lette" under the broiler for a few minutes, which worked perfectly!

Maple syrup on my vegan garlic scape omelette!    #yum #vegan #vegetarian #cooking #healthyfood #foodie #instafood #protein #tofu #spoonfeed #f52grams


I don't know about you, but I am a huge fan of the salty-sweet combination. Once my omelet got onto the plate, I broke out the bottle of Jakemans Pure Maple Syrup that CanadaTheStore.com was so kind to send me for review. I use maple syrup a fair amount for drizzling my dinners, and I'm telling you, the National Post wasn't lying when it voted it "Best Tasting Maple Syrup In Canada". Short of eating it warm on pancakes at the sugar shack, it's the richest, most well rounded maple syrup I've had in a long time. Canada the Store also has a ton of other Canadiana on their site, so if you're an expat or just want a piece of our awesome country for yourself, check out their site and say hi!

Inspired by Susan's Vegan Omelet and shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

"Southern Belle" Granola

Who doesn't love a great granola now and again? Whether you're grabbing a handful of it as you run out the door on a busy morning, sprinkling it on a crisp or crumble, layering it into a yoghurt parfait or baking it into cookies, the crunchy, munchy, chunky cereal is perfect for (what seems like) all life's culinary whims. The best thing about it to me, as a baker and cook, is that granola is essentially the "muffin" of the cereal world. By that, I refer to the fact that you can basically throw anything into a batch and wind up with something delicious. Essentially, you just need to keep the components in mind:
  • Something dry
  • Something grainy (can be the same as #1)
  • Something wet
  • Something sticky
  • Low and slow oven
See how simple it can be? Throw together oats, honey, and peanut butter and BAM! Homemade peanut butter oatmeal. Anything else is window dressing... fruit, nuts, cocoa powder, protein powder... all these make a simple granola your own. It doesn't have to be oats, either - why not use cooked rice or quinoa (something grainy) with coconut flour (something dry)? Once it's all stuck together and essentially dehydrated, it's that perfectly munchable snack.

"Southern Belle" Granola

So, bearing all that in mind, I set about making the 14th granola posted on this blog. I had the "dregs" from a few jars in my fridge - one of  "Peach Cobbler" Dessert Topping and one of the Peach Peel Butter I posted on Flickr. In the freezer lurked handfuls of pecans and coconut, while my pantry was overflowing with various grains and cereals, not to mention a chunk of white chocolate left over from biscotti drizzling. All the components made me think of the Southern States and in particular Georgia, land of peaches, coconut cake and where my mom swears up and down you'll find the best pecan pie.

In short? Absolute decadence, in a totally "okay for breakfast" form. Oh, and it's gluten free too, so you could (maybe...) share with everyone!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Ranch Dip Mix

Are your Summers full of get togethers and potlucks? We have somewhat less "big" parties as the years have gone on, but inevitably four or five times a month family will drop by for a barbecue and a beer. Knowing that a relatively steady stream of guests will arrive over the three months of school break means we stock up - not only on burger-making supplies and condiments, but snack foods as well. The "kids" (all of us almost - if not completely - fully grown now) are partial to plain old tortilla chips and the veggie tray, while the grown-ups seem to favour the flavoured chips (both tortilla and potato) and pretzel rods.

Ranch Dip Mix

What generally brings the two "clans" together is their love of dipping material. I always feel like my sister and I are anomalies, since we're not huge "dippers" and at any rate we stick to tomato-based or hummus-y type ones, avoiding the creamy ranch or French onion varieties that everybody else seems to go crazy for. Normally, we buy the ranch-style or French onion dips already made, in their tubs at the grocery store, since they're convenient and saves us buying soup mixes with an insane amount of salt. Occasionally, we'll luck out and the deli counter will have "store made" dips, but it's few and far between. When coming up with ideas for my Home Ec class to make for Father's Day, I came across a spice mix for ranch dip and dressing that was easy, easily scaled and could be made in the jar it was presented in. The kids got to taste a batch (of course) and gave it the "thumbs up" when we used the mayonnaise / buttermilk combination, but some found it too tart with all yogurt. My family, though, appreciated the extra tang of the Greek yogurt option and really liked that it cut down on the calories and fat! (P.S. - if you want to pay homage to this week's #SundaySupper theme of bacon, a tablespoon of (gluten free) bacon crumbles or imitation bacon bits (McCormick is safe for gluten-free vegetarians!) wouldn't hurt matters!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Cinnamon Roll Pretzel Mix

'Tis the season of road trips, and if you're anything like my family, even the shortest road trip demands snackage! On long car trips, my family would inevitably stop at a coffee shop along the way and us kids would be allowed to choose a treat. Usually, we only had doughnuts or muffins to opt between, but there was the rare occasion a pit stop's offerings included my all time favourite - a sweet, sticky, icing-slathered cinnamon roll. 

Delicious? You bet. Practical for another hour in the car smooshed between bags, cookers and (most importantly) my wiggly little sister? Yeah, not so much. While I'm sure my parents enjoyed the muffled nature of the kids in the backseat, I doubt they appreciated the sugary, baked-on sugar crust that slowly formed onto the cloth seat covers over the summer. As a teacher, I've dealt with my share of "sticky fingers" (par for the course when you do Home Ec) and can't imagine how they must have rued needing that mid-drive coffee!

Cinnamon Roll Pretzel Mix

Even if your trips are nowhere near the 2-3 hours we used to clock each way on Summer weekends, snacks are simply part of what kids are made of. The kids I teach will willingly eat small meals 8 times a day, and when you're on the go, be it to the cottage, camp or... dun dun dun... school, a little baggie of "just in case" food is a boon both for them and their busy parents! This snack mix basically marries my fond childhood memories of road trip decadence and the adult practicality that demands portability and (relatively) low mess potential. The pretzels, raisins and sunflower seeds all bake in the glory of spiced brown sugar and really do come out of the oven tasting like a crunchy cinnamon roll. Yum, right? The kids will love it!
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And I won't tell them about the "extra batch for mom" if you don't.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Braised Chicken Mole

I remember when I first discovered mole. I was downtown with one of my highschool classes on a field trip, and we had been given two hours and the run of the city (well, within walking distance) for lunch. I honestly wouldn't be able to tell you where one of my classmates and I wound up, but we followed our noses and stumbled into a little hole-in-the-wall joint that looked like it could have been someone's house (come to think of it, we never actually checked...). All I remember is that we both ordered chicken mole, after seeing it advertised as a "chocolate laced stew". When the meal arrived it was stunning - a platter of rich, moist chicken, rice and some sort of vegetable smothered in almost black, bittersweet mole. 

The smell of it originally made me pause - it was almost fruity, and not being a fan of my fruit touching anything, I hoped my hard earned babysitting dollars weren't being wasted. I needn't have worried. Three bites in and I was dancing between salty, sweet and spicy flavours every few seconds. The chocolate was not present as an independent flavour, but added body, colour and richness. Plus, being chocolate, what more could a teenage girl ask for? 


Braised Chicken Mole

I've been a huge fan of mole-ish flavours ever since, and while making a "true" rendition is nowhere near my wheelhouse of expertise, I have managed to cobble together some pretty fine "mockmoles" over the years. Whether it's a simple pot of red beans and polenta that I pretty much emprty my spice cabinet into (I do that a lot, come to think of it) or a long, multi-step braise like this one, the layers of flavours are always important, as is the subtle richness of the base. This time, I had a jar of inspiration waiting for me in the form of Spicy Sweet Tomato Jam. Having enjoyed it on corn tortillas already, I knew it was full of that spicy-sweet balance mole is known for. It just needed some broth to "sauce-ify" it and a traditionally nutty base to temper the heat a tad. Most moles that I've found recipes for use either peanuts or almonds as their base, and I'm sure they're delicious - but around here, we love our pecans and cashews. Pecans seemed just too out of place for this, so in went a scoop of cashew butter and some chopped nuts instead, which made a rich, luxurious sauce to braise my organic, prime-grade chicken in. 

For me, the hardest part of the whole meal was breaking down that bird! Once it was chopped into 6 pieces and braised to melt-in-your-mouth perfection, it was finished with roasted red peppers and home-grown beet greens. A bowl of it served with rice was not only gorgeous, but it was a hearty, wholesome dinner for Mom that night after running around all day on errands. The next day, a stray piece of chicken that had fallen off the bone somehow made it into her mouth cold, and she declared it was even better than next-day fried chicken!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Thursday, August 11, 2016

"Peach Cobbler" Dessert Topping

Oddly enough, I don't ever remember eating cobbler. Pies, shortcakes, crisps, crumbles, squares - all parts of my life up till now. But I have never tasted, much less made, the biscuit-topped dessert, despite traveling to the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida as a child.

"Peach Cobbler" Dessert Topping
So what makes me think that I can whip up a "Peach Cobbler in a Jar" type of dessert topping? Well, the answer is twofold: first, I had the "on paper" basics from Amy Bronee's book The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes, which had a recipe that looked perfect for my drippy-perfect fruit from the market. Second, I had the soul and spirit of one of my coworkers and friends, for whom peach cobbler was essentially a religion growing up. I eagerly soaked up her stories of enjoying her aunt's version of the dessert, and by the time school let out for the year peach season seemed even further away!

Thankfully, the sweet, golden nectar of Summer peaches is here now, and with a few simple accoutrements I had a spoonable, way-too-easy-to-eat cobbler (without the cobbler) jarred up, with a few little bowlfuls for us to eat ourselves. A perfect marriage of butterscotchy brown sugar and heady spices, I hope I can make a few more batches before they disappear again!

What to do with this? Well, if you follow our logic, spoon a large helping over a shortcake biscuit, stir it into plain yogurt, or turn leftover rice into dessert with a splash of almond milk and the microwave.

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Spicy Sweet Tomato Jam - Toast Topper #71

Disclaimer: if you are looking for a sweet, caramelly, "jammy" tasting tomato spread, read no further. This is in no way a traditional "PB&J" type of condiment, either in taste or texture... but really, what tomato jam is akin to your classic concord or peach confiture? (OK, maybe this one). At any rate, this is not that jam. No, this wickedly delicious spread is something entirely different, and (if possible) even more addictive - especially for the heat seekers among us.

Spicy Sweet Tomato Jam

Truthfully, I hesitated to call this jam a true Toast Topper. While it is indeed a sweet(ish), thick, perfectly spreadable condiment, if you have a moderate to low heat threshold or are looking for something to slather on a bagel in the morning you are not going to apply this with any sort of zeal. For me, the heat level is perfectly balanced, with a front note of  raisiny sweetness from slowly cooked as well as dried tomatoes, dark honey, Muscovado sugar and ancho peppers followed by the slow, building flame from homegrown habanero and green chilies. On a plain corn tortilla (or stirred into polenta...mmm), it's heaven to my palate. Mom, on the other hand, needs to temper the flame with a base of peanut butter or a thick schmear of cream cheese, which sounds delicious as well! Of course, the supertaster of the family (not-so-little sister, T) won't go near the jar with a ten foot pole - even black pepper is too much for her. To each their own!

Even if you discover the heat of this spread alone is too much to deal with, don't despair! The beauty of this jam's slowly cooked, almost roasted flavour is that it makes for a killer cooking ingredient. A spoonful plopped into a little simmering broth transformed into a perfect simmering sauce for tofu and mushrooms, while a little bit spread over a chicken breast partway through roasting in the oven created a luxurious glaze. I even made a Mexican-inspired stew with the remnants of a jar - more on that to come, I assure you!

What about you? Do you like heat and sweet together, or are they always on opposite ends of your plate? Any other cooking suggestions for this?

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Yeast Free Date Rolls

My grandpa and I shared a love of many things - Jeopardy!, golf, jazz music and big black cats among them. Weekends with Grandma and Grandpa always shared a few stolen moments driving or power walking, always deep in conversation. He knew how much I loved learning (as much as he did!) and loved to fill my head with all sorts of knowledge, from seemingly inane trivia (which will come in great handy should I ever go on Jeopardy!) to household maintenance tips, health news and musical lore. 

When it came around to snack time, the two of us would never be happier than when we discovered a package of Fig Newtons in the pantry or "just happened to" come home with a box of date squares. The tender, oat-packed crust and crumbly topping of those squares was just sturdy enough to hold up to the insanely thick layer of sweet date puree, and while the bakery that made our favourite treat has since shut down (and I doubt they ever had a website), the resulting bars resembled these ones almost to a T. The two of us were really the only ones who shared a deep passion for the dessert, which was all the better for us back then - a pan would last us the whole weekend, plus a few extra pieces for me to pack along for school the next week. Today, I'm the only one in the family who still adores dates in any and every form, and while I do have my great aunt's recipe, making it just doesn't hold the same allure.

Yeast Free Date Rolls

Luckily, I have a great group of friends and colleagues with adventurous palates, and when one of them (who happens to be keeping gluten free for eczema issues) mentioned her yen for "jam rolls" (essentially cinnamon rolls with a fruit paste or butter as the swirl) near the end of the term, I decided to try out the idea using some homemade date paste I had in the freezer. I've mentioned before that I don't tend to buy eggs, unless it's for a Home Ec class, simply because I can't eat them - besides, with all the substitutes I have available to me at home (from chia and flax seed to bananas, tofu and even
Homemade Egg Replacer) buying a dozen for just one or two seems like a waste. This time, though, I took a leaf out of Cupcake Project's book for my substitution and tried an unlikely candidate - mayonnaise. Specifically, an all-natural, egg-free mayonnaise that I had bought near the end of the year for my SK-Grade 1 "transition" class and was sitting in my fridge being ignored by the "normal eaters" at home (I can't handle the fat in any type of mayo, otherwise I'd be making tomato sammies!). Unlikely as it may be, the mayonnaise swap worked wonders in the dough - keeping it moist and supple (a rarity for most GF bread!) with a tiny bit of buttermilky tang. I didn't want to bother messing around with yeast this time around, but the "biscuit" type of dough was perfect for the filling and allowed me to tweak the ingredients so that no refined sugar was used, allowing the molasses-y notes of the raw sugar play in concert with the 100% fruit filling.

Fresh out of the oven that afternoon, and even right before bed, these rolls were perfectly moist without any hint of crumbliness. The next day (after a stint in the fridge) they were beginning to dry out, but by whipping up a honey-butter glaze and brushing it on before reheating and serving them any hint of "aging" disappeared. Simply put, if you love date squares, cinnamon buns or any combination of the two, you've got to try these - you won't be disappointed!

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Roasted Peach Jam - Toast Topper #70

I spent my day down at a couple of the better known Toronto farmer's markets this past Saturday, soaking up the atmosphere while stocking up on my "Toronto only" staples and picking up more than a few "impulse buys" along the way. I was excited to find my long-time favourite pecan rice and my GF baking staple amaranth flour both still available for a great price, and while it was a bit of a search I finally scored some samphire, pea shoots, garlic scapes, baby white turnips and lobster mushrooms - all the makings for a week's worth of delectable meals!

Roasted Peach Jam

Heading back to the car, mom (shopping companion extraordinaire) and I walked past a market stall packed to the rafters with fresh Niagara peaches. The smell was absolutely intoxicating and basically lifted the money out of our pockets for us, all while reminding me of the handful of sad, rock-hard imported peaches sitting on our counter at home. Those ones had been bought out of sheer desperation for "real" Summer fruit after 9+ months of apples, bananas, pears and grapes, but were tooth-shatteringly stiff on purchase and never seemed to soften even after a week on the counter. Even though we now had amazingly buttery, eat-over-the-sink juicy examples of the fruit at home, there was no way I was going to simply throw away the less-than-optimal peaches. First, it's just wasteful, and as a teacher with limited income, a restricted diet, and proud Scottish heritage, extracting every last bit of use from something runs in my blood. Secondly, I paid good money for the fruit, and I'll be darned if I can't figure out a way to enjoy it somehow!

Thankfully, I remembered a trick that has served me so many times before with less than prime produce, and with our new convection-option oven the method was even faster and easier than normal. A sprinkle of raw sugar and a quick, high heat roast in the oven softened the flesh just enough to mash into a chunky jam, while loosening the skins so that they essentially slipped free on their own. All that was left was a final quick boil with some lemon juice, sugar, vanilla and cardamom before being thickened at the last minute with Clear Jel to become a dessert-worthy, smear-on-everything type of jam. By the way, the peels didn't go to waste either - those, along with the ones from my other peach preserve (coming soon) turned into a candy-like "butter" that made a perfect filling for thumbprint cookies as well as whipping into slightly softened ice cream.

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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Brazilian Corn Cookies (Broinhas) #SundaySupper

I have always loved corn. Whether it was peak-of summer cobs bought from the roadside stand on the way up to our sailboat on Georgian Bay, or a can reheated by Grandma on a night my sister and I slept over, there is something undeniably addictive about the sweet kernels. Around here, when you get prime-season peaches and cream corn, it tastes like it's been soaked in butter even if the block has never been out of the fridge. A few years back, I started salt-water soaking and grilling cobs in their husks with just a pinch of smoked paprika, and that sweet-savoury richness naturally present in the golden grains intensifies ten fold.

While corn season is pitifully short up here in the Toronto area, you can bet we get our fill while its here - especially since the price drops like a stone (last time I looked it was like 10 cents a cob at the market). Where I live, I'm fortunate enough to live close to a farm that flash-freezes all their extra produce (as well as some from surrounding producers), making a bag of frozen berries, beans, peaches or corn taste just as delectable in Winter as it did during that one week it was perfect in the field. I tell you, spreading out some frozen kernels on a baking sheet and broiling them until just so slightly blistered turns starchy vegetable into dinner-worthy candy!

Broinhas (Brazilian Corn Cookies)

Obviously, my normal method of indulging in this Summer staple is via the simple, savoury kitchen. I'm not about to change that passion regarding the "whole" form of the produce, but there are plenty of other ways I utilize corn products in cooking! I keep a decent stash of "plain" corn flour, cornstarch, dextrose (corn sugar), polenta and fine-milled cornmeal in the pantry, and when I discovered this Brazilian recipe a few weeks ago I thought it would be perfect for this #SundaySupper. Not only did the "corn" ingredient fit the theme, but with the Rio Olympics having kicked off this past Friday these little "golden" medallions look right at home on a viewing-party tray! While they're 100% gluten free, these buttery cookies are relatively easy to shape and have a perfect balance of "melt-in-your-mouth" and "sandy" textures. A touch of finely shredded coconut adds a touch of tropical flair, but if you're not a fan (or are allergic like me) leaving it (and the extract) out is no big deal. Either way, they're a hit with kids (and kids at heart) alike!


Appetizer

Breakfast

Salad

Main Dish

Side Dish

Dessert
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Friday, August 5, 2016

Drop - Dead Simple Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

While I usually pride myself on being a "preserving queen", and I'm obviously a huge fan of baking, whenever I get homemade gifts from the families I teach it's always special - not to mention delicious! This past June I was the lucky recipient of a big jar of strawberry preserves, which were just lightly sweetened and full of true berry flavour. Since I'm not huge on eating bread myself (gluten issues and lack of decent GF bread around here just make things a pain), I was stirring the occasional spoonful into oats but knew I wouldn't make it through the jar before it turned. Then, while I was making my Peppery Strawbarb Blossom Jam, it hit me - use it along with some of the rhubarb glut in the garden to make pie!

Drop - Dead Simple Strawberry Rhubarb Pie


The resulting pastry's filling was perfect in flavour and consistency, invoking the feeling of being out in the strawberry fields outside the city. The mixture was viscous enough so that I didn't have to mess around with cooking a pie filling, and avoiding the chore of hulling and chopping a gazillion tiny Ontario strawberries was taken off my hands, making the pie as fast and easy to make as whipping up a relatively basic pie crust and popping everything in the oven. For an extra boost of flavour, texture and nutrition, I opted for a partial spelt flour dough adapted from DIY Vegan , which stayed incredibly tender and flaky while weaving easily into a lattice topping. 

I normally would have taken photos of a slice, but it's long gone... but I'm sure that the next time I have the opportunity to make a strawberry-rhubarb pie, I will take the opportunity to source out some chunky, all fruit preserves to "sweeten" the deal!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Chicken-Tofu Green Curry

Since I went to the trouble of making the Green Thai Curry Paste, it only made sense that I take it out for a test-drive. Luckily, we're in the midst of one of our mid-season "clear out the pantry/fridge/freezer" blitzes, constantly trying to make room for the various produce coming in from the garden and my every-other-week farmer's market visits. The last time I really dug into our deep freeze, it was to find a space for (yet another) baked good - which was delicious and will be posted soon! - and while shuffling things between shelves I came across a bag of roasted chicken and an unopened package of Thai-style frozen vegetables. A trip to the pantry revealed a can of "lite" coconut milk we bought by mistake (usually we only buy the full fat for cooking) and instantly I had the makings of a week's worth of meals for Mom.

Chicken-Tofu Green Curry

There wasn't quite enough chicken to classify it as a "chicken curry" dish, but I knew I had a block (or ten) of tofu in the freezer too, so I pulled it out, micro-thawed it and quickly pressed it while I prepped and cooked the rest of the ingredients. After a quick simmer, a flavourful, pleasantly garlicky, just-spicy-enough dish was ready, and not only was is delicious on it's own right out of the pot in my authentic Thai rice bowl, but it was even better the next day when the sauce had slightly thickened and soaked into the rest of the ingredients. Served over black sticky rice (my current favourite), it mixed into a perfect marriage of tastes, and according to Mom it froze and reheated like a dream too.

What are some of your favourite "pantry / fridge / freezer raid" meals?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Green Thai Curry Paste

There's no secret that we are a family of heat (and especially curry) lovers. I've always been addicted to spice, and at any given time can be counted on to have no fewer than 3 types of hot sauce in my pantry (I think my current count stands at 6). My leanings tend to go towards southwestern, Mexican or Indian-style chile heat, but my mom has been a bona fide Thai curry fan ever since she visited the country on business.

Green Thai Curry Paste

Obviously, we make our share of Thai-style curried soups and stews around here, and we usually turn to our tried-and-true brand of jarred paste for that key hit of flavour. We probably would be using it still, had the aforementioned vermin in my garden left my chillies alone - but after one too many trips out back to salvage the peppers strewn over the soil (they don't eat them but they love tearing down the stalks!) I knew I had to start doing something with all the peppers in varying stages of ripeness.

Luckily, I also grow a mess of herbs in the garden, which the voles have not touched (fingers crossed!). This year's batch is decidedly "interesting" according to my mom and stepdad, encompassing two types of dill (for pickles, obviously!), catnip, two types of basil (including a to-die-for variety called Emerald Wine), lemon balm and - one of my secret surprises this year, a variety of mint called Chameleon Fish Mint. True to it's name, it does taste somewhat fishy - I liken it to salmon really - and not only does it jazz up tuna salad (or plain old marinara sauce!) but I decided to use it instead of fish sauce to bring the signature hint of flavour that's present in so many Thai recipes. The rest of the mix featured lemon balm to enhance the dried lemongrass I used, and minced Egyptian onion instead of scallions, shallots or plain onions since they really taste like a mix of all of them.

Now, I'm not kidding when I say that this paste is spicy. There's no oil in it, so when you use it you can "bloom" it however you wish (coconut oil or coconut milk are the two we tend to use), but I would not recommend a spoonful as a taste test! In fact, we added a touch to ground chicken and made a "taster meatball" to test the flavour - those might become a new "thing" here!

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