Sunday, March 26, 2017

Tiny Batch Blood Orange Marmalade #SundaySupper (Toast Topper #77)

When I make jam, jelly or marmalade "off season", it's usually purely for my mom and I to enjoy. Nobody else here eats the stuff, which means that standard-sized batches of preserves require either heating up the waterbath canner or scaling things way back. My choice is usually an easy one - being a lover of variety, eating any Toast Topper, no matter how delicious, for months on end is sheer drudgery to me. For jam and jelly, I rely on flexible-batch pectins to keep things set, but with marmalade it's even easier!

Tiny Batch Blood Orange and Ginger Marmalade

With the last two blood oranges in a bag that I had purchased last week, a spoonful of ginger and a hint of vanilla, I set about making a teeny tiny batch of a marmalade seen on Food in Jars, which is made ridiculously simplistic by using an overnight soak, rather than a nitpicky slice and dice method, to extract the pectin. While the overnight time frame is a pain if you don't plan ahead, a batch is a great accompaniment to Sunday brunch and even works wonders on grilled meats like chicken.

Tiny Batch Blood Orange and Ginger Marmalade

This #SundaySupper, our gang is creating Citrus Recipes That Will Make You Smile. At the end of a less-than-friendly week, I'm looking forward to lifting my spirits!


Breakfasts


Main Dishes


Desserts

 

Beverages

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.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Chai - Scotti #CreativeCookieExchange

Chai tea is a big thing with some of my coworkers, and definitely a favourite of most of my yoga class. On one level I can see why - the complex, layered, warming spices, dark tea and creamy milk definitely stimulate and soothe the soul all at once. However, I've never been a "milky tea" drinker, and when I have to incorporate spice in my tea it's usually a cinnamon stick with an apple herbal infusion (a la Sugar-Free "Apple Cider"), so settling in with a mug of the frothy masala-spiked brew just never appealed.

Around the holidays (when mugs of coffee and tea abounded in the school to cope with the -20C weather) I took another look at chai and broke it down to the basics of the spice blend. After I did that, I realized that while I might not like everything in a mug all at once, I did like the majority of the flavours going on. Since I was in the midst of a biscotti blitz, I figured I would make a tea version - after all, there are only so many Empire biscuits one can eat on their china plates. These crisp cookies are very lightly sweetened (since most chai tea is sweet), scented with coconut and peppered with a sprinkling of sesame seeds for some extra nuttiness. For a little extra sugar, a powdered sugar icing was whipped up with brewed chai and drizzled on, which capped off the flavours without overwhelming them with sugar. I kept them vegan by using ground chia in place of eggs - a substitution that also helped keep them just tender enough to keep from breaking your teeth when eaten as is (chia absorbs water and holds it amazingly well).

Chai-Scotti

Cookies in the afternoon at “teatime” are a long held tradition, whether served with tea, coffee or even milk for an after school snack. No matter what you serve with your cookies, we’ve got a great list for you to choose from!

You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Friday, March 17, 2017

Irish Cream Caramel Biscotti

When I was growing up, my grandparents used to live next door to an Irish family. The two youngest daughters were my age and a year older, and we shared the same class in school for years as best friends on and off the playground. Their mom was the school's administrator (back then called a secretary), and would drive us to school in the morning. Even at 8AM, with four (including my sister) grumpy, bleary eyed kids tromping after her, I never recall her being anything other than a generally calm, happy person who's gentle accent always made you feel like she was your mom and best friend rolled in one.

Irish Cream Caramel Biscotti

While it was never a point of note for me as a kid (my grandparents moved when I was 8), now that I think of it I never once saw any alcohol in their house. In fact, I never saw them drink - although ironically my first taste of "real" rum (and whiskey) balls was at a Christmas party there. They always seemed immune to the social pressures of the community to have beer and cocktails at their Summer cookouts, instead serving up glorious "mocktails" for everyone (my favourite involved orange juice, grenadine and ginger ale).

Back home, though, my sister and I were initiated into the world of alcohol through sips of our parents' beer or wine when we went out for dinner (the only time they drank much), and mugs of Bailey's or Kahlua laced hot cocoa or cafe au lait during frosty mornings on our sailboat. With such small doses at a time, we actually had the opportunity to appreciate the flavour of the alcohol - something that I truly value now that I can't drink. Baked into a cookie like biscotti - meant to be dunked in coffee - the flavour of the Irish cream wakes up again and takes on the coffee's flavour while imparting its own into the cup. Tit for tat, no?

And because Irish cream and caramel are just SO good together, I figured I'd throw in some caramel flavour with Vanilla Caramel coffee creamer. After dividing my dough, I kneaded crushed caramels into one part, leaving the other one plain, and I glazed both after they cooled for a "coffee shop" style look.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Date - Fig Bars

Perusing my archives, it's definitely clear that I have a soft spot for figs. Not only did I whip up three variations of my long-standing favourite cookie, but I even worked them into an elegant braided challah that my mom still talks about. The one thing I hated about making those cookies was how finicky rolling and sealing the dough could be - and since I'm lazy the time to roll out, fill, trim, roll and cut is just not my cup of tea. Bars, however, are a-OK: Less mess, less individual cutting, and far easier storage.

Date - Fig Bars

When I came across a fig-filled bar cookie in my review copy of Bake Something Great, I knew I wanted to try it out. Unfortunately I didn't have stellar results the first time around, but I picked up enough tips along the way to turn my next pan into a vegan, filling packed, whole grain success. I was running short on the namesake figs by the time I got to baking, but luckily I had some dates handy. These not only bulked up the mix, but added extra sweetness as well so I could use even less sugar in the dough. I upped the flour, using a mix of spelt and whole wheat, and used shortening and flax to keep things animal free.

Finally, after chilling everything down, I got to make my first slice - success! Tons of figgy filling, tender, slightly nutty crust and perfect for packing on a picnic or in a lunchbox.

Date-Fig Bars

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Irish Multigrain Bread #Breadbakers

How do you celebrate the 17th of March? While I don't drink, my fellow teachers have the luck of the Irish around them, since St. Pat's almost always falls during March Break. Of course, regardless of whether we party all night or simply wear the green, the morning after we all need a good, hearty and nutritious breakfast to get going. When I found Yvette van Boven's recipe for Irish Multigrain Bread in her book Home Baked, I knew it would be perfect for the St. Patty's Day week - it is so easy (and fast) to whip up, you could bake a loaf on a weeknight in you wanted, or (if you're an early bird) stick a pan of it in the oven first thing before the rest of the world gets up an hour late thanks to Daylight Savings time. My favourite part of making this loaf is that there is no kneading - perfect for bicep-less me - and with only 1 rise in the pan you can't overhandle it while shaping.

Irish Multigrain Bread

The resulting drain-filled loaf is dense but light enough to have for breakfast, and with both oats and Q'ia cereal in the crumb it's almost a portable bowl of porridge in itself. Unlike porridge, though, this bread makes excellent toast and soaks up any Toast Topper you throw at (or on) it, but is moist enough to stand alone as well, possibly as a side to a soup like Beef Barley "Semi-Strone".

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

BreadBakers

Check out the Irish Breads that our fellow #BreadBakers have baked this month:

Monday, March 13, 2017

Beef Barley "Semi-Strone"

While I didn't grow up a soup-loving kid, I'll admit there were times when a steaming-hot bowl of broth filled with bits and bites of delicious stuff really hit the spot. These days, I'm hard pressed not to have soup for dinner a few nights a week, especially when I come home from a particularly long or cold day at work. Like my mom, I don't crave soup when I'm feeling sick, though - the bowls I desire are always too thick, too spicy or too "busy" for the bland diet prescribed for stomach flu. Instead, give me French Canadian pea soup with liberal dashings of pepper, or a minestrone packed full of beans.

Beef Barley "Semi-Strone"

With our freezer stores running low on meals and high on leftovers, it was clearly time to whip up another batch of soup (my favourite go-to for cleaning the fridge and freezer!). I started with a container of ground beef left over from the Summer's burger-making, roasted garlic paste and a bag of beef stock cubes from gosh-knows-when, adding frozen tomato paste pucks for a little body. From the pantry came the spices, canned tomatoes, chickpeas and a bowlful of barley which I soaked overnight to hasten the cooking time. After a nice long simmer, leftover greens from last week were stirred in to add a bit of pop. The mix was delicious right away, but by lunchtime the next day? Perfection.

I call this a "semi-strone" because while it has a lot of the Italian flavours going for it (and like the original version was made with leftovers), it also uses barley, which is untraditional, and leaves out any notion of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Whatever you call it, it is sure delicious and a great stick-to-your-ribs meal any day of the week!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Super Lime Bars #SundaySupper

It's almost St. Patrick's day, and whether you're Irish or not, green is the colour of the week. Luckily for us foodies (especially us veggie-lovers), the colour green is quite plentiful in the edible world - any trip to your standard grocery store's produce section will provide you with every shade under the sun. I adore almost every green thing on offer - but when it comes to desserts, there are really only three green-tinged items I use: granny smith apples, pears and limes.

Super Lime Bars

Being a family of citrus lovers, for this green #SundaySupper there was clearly only one option.With limes of all sorts in season right now, their tangy, bright flavour is too good to pass up! While the zest is critical for flavour and colour (at least for the glaze), the juice also plays a critical role in keeping the sweetness factor down. I actually used a blend of limes in this - key limes in the glaze and Persian (aka "regular") limes in the cake, and the medley had a flavour all its own. To really make these healthier bars stand out on the dessert tray, I used Kamut flour for a rich, almost buttery flavour and colour, and added a touch of Greek yogurt for extra moisture. As a nod to my mom (it's her birthday today!) a dose of custard powder added a "key lime pie" flavour and a pillowy softness I've yet to find in any other cake.

Forget St. Patty - I'm eating this by myself!

Best Breakfasts

 

Must Make Main Dishes

 

Scrumptious Salads

 

Stunning Sides

 

Dreamy Desserts


Sunday Supper MovementJoin 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, March 10, 2017

Piri Piri Sauce

This weekend marks the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, which (for most of us) also translates into a few days of total disorientation as the clocks move forward and we lose an hour of sleep. Luckily for the kids (and us teachers), the shift happens over March Break - so while it's irritating to wake up an hour later than you wanted to, we're not sabotaging our work cycles too much. 

That said, when I need to wake up my brain - whether it be first thing in the morning or before pulling an all-nighter of marking, writing or lesson planning - my tried and true remedy has always been something spicy. Nothing sets your neurons firing like a dollop of wasabi or searing hot pepper sauce mixed with rice or grains, and last year (with a garden and a half overflowing with hot chilies), I got to try my hand at making and tasting a handful of variations. One that was first on my list was piri piri sauce - essentially a Portuguese twist on Tabasco, made with layers of flavour - chilies, garlic herbs and lemon all feature heavily. My dad had turned me onto the bottled stuff after mentioning his experience with it during workplace lunches, and after consulting a few blogs and my copy of The Chile Pepper Bible, I set to work with the myriad of peppers and herbs I had stashed in my freezer.

Piri Piri Sauce

Now, when people make "authentic" piri piri, they often add fish sauce for the salty, pungent flavour. However, to keep things vegan (and avoid it going wonky in the fridge or freezer) I used fish mint instead, which provides the flavour without the animal products. I also used some lemon balm for an extra burst of citrus. After letting the mixture infuse and mellow a few days in the fridge, I made my mom a grilled turkey burger with a spoonful mixed into the meat as a tester - it almost, but not quite, blew her head off spice wise! Luckily, this condiment is often diluted a bit and used more as a marinade than anything else, so when used as intended it just adds a nice low burn than a dynamite explosion in your throat.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Vanilla Clementine Marmalade Toast Topper #76

It's been ages since I've posted one of my infamous Toast Toppers. Over the summer last year, I made and canned a ton of things to savour over the chilly winter season, and now we're finally rounding the corner on the sauces and savoury toppings lining the shelves. That said, I didn't get much of a chance to do a lot with fruit last year - I made a few things with peaches during the two weeks or so they were any good, but ran out of steam after picking pounds upon pounds of both wine and Concord grapes from the backyard vines. Now that we're in March, the memory of sweet, juicy fruit is bordering on torture, especially when I can see fellow bloggers down south enjoying first of the season berries!

Vanilla Clementine Marmalade


Finally, there was no getting around it - the jam jars were empty, and since we're now spoiled by homemade jam and jelly, a jar of storebought spread just isn't the same in the morning. But what to preserve when nothing is growing? Thankfully, decent international shipping means that winter here is citrus season - Meyer lemons, blood oranges, clementines... almost all of them. I decided to utilize a few clementines (a childhood favourite) to make this small-batch marmalade.

Unlike most jams, marmalade is set by the natural pectin in citrus seeds and pith combining with sugar. I'm not going to lie - this spread is much higher in sugar than my normal Toast Toppers, but a little goes a long way because the flavour is so pronounced. To up the ante even more, I went more of a "creamsicle" route by adding vanilla sugar as half the sweetener. The vanilla added just the right amount of floral, comfortingly classic flavour to the batch, making it not only great on a morning bagel, but with scones or even stirred into yogurt (mom's favourite). The whole process takes time, but very minimal involvement with the exceptions of stirring occasionally and checking your thermometer. Not a bad trade-off, I would say!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Big Batch Honey-Wheat Bread

As someone who doesn't eat bread, I sure have a love for making it. There's something about it's versatility, it's living (and essentially) breathing nature, and of course it's sheer aroma as its made and bakes to crusty perfection. However, I'll admit that I don't make it as traditionally as my mom and grandfather do and did - I've yet to develop satisfactorily Olympian-swimmer arm and shoulder muscles to adequately knead the denser whole grain loaves my mom loves to eat, so my stand mixer is my best friend in that respect.

Big Batch Wholegrain Bread

Now, my stand mixer is a beast - it's a professional-grade 7 qt KitchenAid that weighs a ton (officially 25 lbs) and never moves from it's spot on my counter. Because of it's size, though, it rarely gets to show its true prowess, as while it's great for the preliminary kneading of single-loaf dough, I still wind up doing a lot of the final kneading. Obviously, bigger batches of dough were the way to go - and a quadruple batch of hearty, 100% whole grain bread fit the bill perfectly! What I love about making such huge batches at a time is that I can freeze "portion pack" balls of dough for months and pull them out when we need fresh bread but I don't feel like fussing with the ingredients and kneading.

Big Batch Wholegrain Bread

We never get tired of it, since as I mentioned before bread is almost infinitely versatile - the first loaf I made with this batch was studded with rock sugar and shaped into a boule, which came out perfectly sweet and just crusty enough for a great PB & J, while being absorbent enough for a killer French toast. Other loaves were filled with cheese, trail mix, or swirls of spice. I even took my last two balls of dough and added cocoa and chocolate chips to one half, orange zest and extract to the other and twisted them together into a decadent and dessert-worthy loaf.

Turned my last two balls of Big Batch While Wheat Bread into a decadent chocolate-orange twist loaf. Gotta love frozen bread dough! #yum #sweet #cooking #baking #bread #chocolateorange #chocolate #yeast #foods #food #vegetarian

My favourite part of making this bread these days is using my own home-ground, sprouted wheat flour (which I now store in one of my Infinity Jars). It's infinitely worth either buying or grinding sprouted wheat flour to use as part of any loaf - it lends a delicate sweetness that overrides any possible bitterness the whole wheat might impart (I've never found any regardless, but the earthy sweetness is nice). In my experience, sprouted flour also feeds sourdough starter better than plain ol' flour does. I guess I'm spoiled now!

Big Batch Wholegrain Bread

A final note - measuring by weight is 100% your friend here... unless you want to scoop out 15 cups of flour by hand!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Simple Decorating Icing

March kicks off a massive round of birthday parties around here. My grandmother's is first - and while the day itself is in February we usually celebrate it alongside my Mom's a month later in mid-March. My dad and his girlfriend's birthdays chase right after that, followed a week later by mine and finally my sister's eight days later. Factor in Easter, my uncle and my cousin's birthdays in the same 30 day window and you can see why by May I feel like a (very poor) walking cloud of sugar, chocolate and flour! 


While my mom's cake is in the works as we speak (it's a multi-day preparation with vanilla bean frosting, chocolate decorations and a multi-layered buttermilk sponge), my sister also got her baking game on this past weekend for a fundraiser at her work. Apparently, many veterinary  offices around the country celebrate "cupcake day", where employees bake and sell cupcakes to raise money for local animal shelters. Being a lover of all things furry, it was hard for her to choose something to put on her cupcakes, but seeing as we have 10 (adorable) rats at home I think she was well advised to choose one of them as her model. Originally, for simplicity's sake, she was going to rely on tubes of decorator icing, but a scouring of four local groceries yielded no white. Finally, I offered to whip her up a batch of mine - not only is it pure white, but lightning-fast to make, perfect for piping and (IMHO) better tasting, even when left unadorned. Of course, feel free to add flavouring or colouring as needed!

Frosting made the cupcakes (see above) were soon whipped up and decorated without a hitch. I think they looked great - how about you?