Friday, June 8, 2018

5 Food Items That Are Dangerously Toxic to Dogs


Making delicious home cooked meals is one of the many simple joys of being a parent to a dog. Most pet parents believe, and the experts agree, that meals cooked at home are much healthier than store-bought dry dog food. There are also plenty of pet-friendly recipes out there to keep those canine taste buds guessing. Now, a lot of dog parents try and add what they believe are healthy ingredients in an attempt to pack the meals with nutrients and phytonutrients. However, the problem with that approach is that a lot of human food can potentially make your dog sick. This is why it’s a good practice to seek out pet health advice from experts before adding any new ingredient to your dog’s diet. Now, we are not talking about chocolate, which is a well known toxin. If you are a pet parent, you probably have read several articles about the dangers of chocolate. In this post, we highlight the ingredients no one really talks about. So, next time you are looking for recipes for your dog be on guard for these 5 ingredients.

Avocado: Avocado toxicity in dogs is a very real threat. This completely healthy human food contains a chemical called persin. If consumed in high quantities, persin toxicity can lead to heart attack and even death.

Grapes: If you are having a bowlful of grapes and you feel tempted to toss one up to your dog then refrain yourself. Both grapes and raisins can lead to toxic reactions in dogs. As a responsible pet parent, you need to keep your dog away from food that contains grapes and raisins. This includes grape juice or mixed fruit juice with grapes and bakery items with raisin.

Artificial Sweetener: Xylitol is a common artificial sweetener and is completely safe for human consumption. While sugary food is not good for your dog, you should never to try to replace sugar with xylitol. Xylitol is a downright poison when consumed by dogs. To be safe, don’t give your dog any kind of artificial sweetener.

Garlic: Garlic is a kitchen essential and it’s also highly used in herbal remedies. While their benefits are plentiful when consumed by humans they are toxic to dogs. When consumed, garlic can lead to drooling, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, excessive weakness, and sudden collapses. Garlic poisoning damages red blood cells in dogs. Garlic in small amounts may not result in symptoms, but if your dog consumes a garlic-heavy recipe, then it’s best to rush him to the nearest vet. Apart from garlic, all veggies part of the allium family (chives, garlic, onion, and leek) are toxic to dogs and cats.

Macadamia Nuts: No one really knows why macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs. There is also a debate on how much macadamia nut a dog needs to consume to feel the toxic effects. According to ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, symptoms may arise by consuming anything from 2.2g to 62.4g for every kilogram of the dog’s body weight. That’s a mammoth range. To be safe, it’s best to avoid giving your dog macadamia nuts all together.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Cooking’s Next Big Thing is In Your Kitchen


It’s an exciting time to be a foodie, as modern chefs are revolutionizing the industry on a seemingly daily basis, but dining out can be expensive and Canadians are expected to spend an additional $208 each this year at restaurants. Julia Child said of cooking, “this is my advice to people: Learn how to cook, try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun.” That applies to the fun you can have by taking the hottest trends in dining out and learning to make them in the comfort of your own home. From elevating common foods to something greater to the excitement of performative cooking you can learn from the pros and save money at the same time by making your own chef-inspired meals.
 
Get Hot with Hibachi Grilling
A night at a hibachi grill is guaranteed to be full of entertainment and delicious foods, as chefs dazzle patrons with their cooking techniques. You can create your own hibachi experience by purchasing a portable griddle or a griddle range for your stove top. With hibachi-style cooking you cook your whole meal on the flat top allowing for the creation of tasty Asian-inspired dishes to enjoy with your friends and family.

Take Pub Food to the Next Level
No trend is currently hotter than gastropubs. Combining the comfort foods of your favourite hole-in-the-wall with the refined touch of fine dining you get delicious and unique takes on everyone’s top dishes. As Ryan Hibbert, CEO of Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row, explains, at a gastropub “the quality of the food, service and entertainment is exponentially better than what you get at other places.” To get started making your own gastropub-inspired meal, pick out your favourite late night bar order and then imagine how a Michelin Star chef would make it. Use high-quality ingredients and creativity and you’ll end up with a tasty meal that’s one of a kind.

Keep It In the Neighborhood
The value of fresh ingredients cannot be understated, and from that principal has developed the hyper-local cooking movement. At a hyper-local restaurant, not only will you be guaranteed that all of your food is being made fresh, but also that it contains only ingredients grown right on the premises. Hyper-local cooking is something you can do at home, too. If you have a yard with some free space you have the ability to begin cultivating your own source of hyper-local ingredients. From tending to your home garden to raising animals like chickens for meat and byproducts, there is a special level of satisfaction which comes from cooking a meal and knowing that you made it all on your own.
 
There are so many options available to a home cook looking to incorporate new tips and tricks, and the only limit is your willingness to push your limits and try something new. Find a cooking style that speaks to you and sounds fun then get started. The sooner you make your first hyper-local, hibachi or gastropub style meal, the sooner you can taste it, learn from it, and get to work thinking about the second and third ones. Give yourself the gift of a delicious dinner by taking your favourite restaurant home with you, and enjoy the tasty fruits of your labour.

This is a sponsored post approved by Sarah Reid

Monday, May 28, 2018

Cabbage and Pepper Thai Curry

This gluten free, vegan red Thai curry is packed with veggies and soy protein, all flavoured to the hilt with coconut milk, garlic, ginger and red curry paste.

Cabbage and Pepper Thai Curry

I'm going to preface this with a "wow, it's been a long time since I've posted". I keep meaning to, really, but as we all know that thing called life gets in the way all too often. This time of the year is always packed for us teachers, between report cards, trips, tournaments and plays, and with a new semester of university upon me the workload is just as high.

On a serious note, my health has (again) been up and down so days when I could be writing, editing photos, etc I was sleeping or watching TV with glazed-over eyes. If I haven't mentioned it before on here, I've been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which affects both my joints (especially those in my feet and shoulders) but the connective tissues and digestive system. As a result, my legs and feet swell up like balloons and I threw out both my shoulders in a period of 3 weeks - one time putting on a coat, the second warming up in a gym class. I can take solace in the fact that this autoimmune condition is likely the cause of all my stomach and digestive issues, and my skin definitely responds well to a gluten free, mostly vegan diet (I have fish on occasion), so I'm not simply one of the freaks of nature. Well, I am, but now I'm an explainable freak! The drug trials I'm on do take their toll on my energy though - they're immunosuppressants so I do get sick more easily and have to watch myself, especially around the kids. Lots of handwashing! I do have to thank my lucky stars that (at least for now) the Ontario government has a program in place to cover the absurd cost of the medication, because otherwise I would be 120% out of luck!

One thing I haven't stopped doing, though, is getting into the kitchen any chance I can. Not only have I spent the last few weeks pulling Medieval and Egyptian recipes for two of our school plays, but I decided to take on a version of "The Grey Stuff" from Beauty and The Beast for the third play as well. As with last year, making recipes for school events is never a small feat - often it means scaling things up 3-4 times (in the case of "The Grey Stuff" we had to make enough for 120 people!). I'm in the process of purchasing ingredients and within a few weeks you should be seeing some Instagram posts on the subject, so stay tuned.

Cabbage and Pepper Thai Curry

At home, weekly lunch prep for Mom continues, and knowing her penchant for Thai style food I knew it was time to make her another curry. I was inspired by a recipe for dumpling filling found on Healthy Nibbles and Bits and decided that rather than mess around with trying to beautifully fold a billion dumplings, I would toss the curry over rice and call it a day. We love our veggies here, and with cabbage being perpetually cheap and common, not to mention a great bulking agent, It was a perfect choice. Being a red curry, I capitalized on colour and used red bell peppers as well. For protein, I used TVP, one of our staples here since it is so versatile. Everything came together quite quickly and (as with most curries) tasted better the day after. Even reheated from frozen, my mom declared that it was definitely on the hit list - and it must have been since I've made it three times already! I used tamari since its what I had, but if you don't have gluten issues use standard soy sauce. Don't skip on the veggie sautee time either, and definitely use a big pot - that cabbage is bulky before it cooks down!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

District 13 Bread #BreadBakers

Two loaves of multigrain bread are made with no refined sugar and packed with sunflower and pumpkin seeds for good measure. You won't "hunger" after this!

District 13 Bread

I have a confession: I am a horrible 30-something when it comes to keeping current with TV and movies. I completely lack the ability to focus on something as long as a typical feature film (my brain is just too busy with everything else these days) and I miss too many weekly serials to really get involved with their plots - exceptions being The Good Doctor and Law & Order SVU which always seem to fit with my schedule. Since the bulk of my day is reading for school, when it comes to decompressing books are not high on my list these days either. So it should not come as a surprise that I have not read, nor seen, The Hunger Games. It's not that I think the franchise sucks - I like to reserve judgement until I actually experience something like Waiakea volcanic water - but I haven't had the time or willpower to devote to the series. Perhaps when I finish school... in 2021...

District 13 Bread DoughAnyways, just because I haven't experienced the original stories doesn't mean I haven't been able to connect with the food in the books. I had borrowed an e-copy of The Unofficial Recipes of The Hunger Games from the library and the recipe for "District 13 Bread" caught my eye. I know that the land of the Hunger Games is supposed to be rather spartan and generally horrible, but the composition of the loaves definitely appealed to me and my chief bread-eater at home, so I couldn't wait to make them. Dense and low-rising, the dough is filled with hearty, rustic grains you don't normally see in today's storebought loaves: buckwheat, barley, rye and oats make up a good chunk of the volume, while ground flax adds body and a great nuttiness as well as helping keep the loaf moist and tender. As if that's not enough, soaked barley, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds get kneaded in too, each lending their own bite to the bread. The finished loaves aren't sweet (even with the molasses and honey in them), and are delicious alongside soup or stew as well as lightly toasted and smeared with butter or (my longtime favourite) cream cheese and cherry jam. The best part is that a small slice is plenty filling, so you won't get the refined-carb crash an hour after breakfast, nor will you feel bloated or weighed down with 6 ounces of bagel with schmear on your stomach. Not that a good (Montreal style) bagel and schmear isn't warranted some days... but this is perfect working-day food that tastes so much better than the supermarket stuff, not to mention you know what's in it!

The #BreadBakers are making BREAD WITH SEEDS this month, and I can't wait to see everyone's creations! #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

District 13 Bread

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Vegan Churros

These crisp-chewy churros are baked - not fried - and coated head to toe in cinnamon sugar. Even better? They're vegan and nut free!


Happy Cinco de Mayo! While I've never been to Mexico (it's on the bucket list) I do appreciate "real" Mexican food when I can get it. The one exception that I will always make is guacamole - don't hate me, but I can't stand avocado in any form (except perhaps as a cookie or brownie). Mole, arroz negro, cajeta or fideos though- those are fair game, especially when paired with the gorgeous fresh fruit that is so abundant there. One of my all time favourite treats is the churro, and growing up there was a Mexican bakery near the mall that made them in a few different styles. The "basic" sticks, simply coated in cinnamon-sugar, were perfect for on-the-go munching and were never greasy or prone to weighing you down. For more immediate enjoyment, they served the sticks filled with either jam, dulce de leche or Nutella - if that isn't Heaven on a plate, I don't know what is. They had dipping sticks too for the rich, thick hot chocolate, all alongside some of the best, freshest tasting smoothies I ever had. 

Fast forward 20 years and I'm now making them with my Home Ec classes. Churros are, in their very essence, an extruded sweet-ish choux paste, and while they are usually fried to delicious golden perfection, I have a deep-seated fear of deep frying and opted to try a baked version. One of the cardinal rules about choux dough is that it is so temperamental in poor weather, and our egg-and-dairy originals fell flat and doughy by the time I got them into the oven. Not having any extra eggs on hand, I quickly scoured the 'Net for a way to approximate the recipe without the key ingredient (ludicrous, I know, but it was 8PM and I didn't feel like going to the store). Finally, armed with a few well-reviewed recipes, I concocted a slightly modified version of Nature's Emporium's. I didn't need to keep things gluten free, so regular flour fit the bill just fine, and I added a touch of nutmeg for that doughnutty flavour.

Vegan Churros

Out of the oven and rolled in that classic cinnamon sugar, these tasted amazing, and the dough smelled a heck of a lot better than the standard choux paste I'm used to (I can't stand the smell of eggs). These held up to storage a bit better than their pastry cousins as well, keeping crisp for at least a day. I would suggest, should storage be your aim, refrigerating or freezing these "naked", then reheating and sugar-coating them as needed. Of course, a caramel or chocolate dunk is purely optional, although delicious!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

This is hands-down my favourite vanilla frosting recipe - it is decadently butter-rich, not too sweet and is stable enough to stand out at a party for a few hours without melting. My picky sister gave it her seal of approval too!

Red Velvet Birthday Cake

While I'm no professional, making cakes is something I really enjoy doing. The cake recipe itself is probably the most nervewracking part of the experience, since without a well-done (and tasty) base, no amount of frosting or chocolate in the world is making that dessert a hit. Case in point: this year my mom asked for red velvet cake, one of her (and my) favourites. I had a few recipes in my arsenal, but I wasn't 100% happy with them, especially since I knew they'd have to stand up to a fairly hefty frosting a long decorating process. I turned instead to a recipe I had bookmarked for a while - Alton Brown's, which stated it made 3 layers (precisely what I needed). Imagine my surprise when the batter barely made one layer, was definitely not the red shown on the TV or online, and while it was tasty in its own right, it was not red velvet. I couldn't bear to throw it out, so that dense, super-moist layer became the bottom of my stack while a half-batch of the Waldorf Astoria recipe perched on top. 

Red Velvet Birthday Cake

Since the cake was not going to be my crowning achievement this year, I set about making a killer frosting. I knew I wanted to make a cream cheese style frosting (cream cheese frosting is my favourite) but I also knew it couldn't be one that screamed cream cheese, since the crowd is a divided group on the subject. The one person I didn't even try to impress was my sister - she is traditionally a canned chocolate frosting-or-die girl, and has the palate of a well trained connoisseur when it comes to tasting "anomalies" in her food. 

With my parameters set, I started modifying my go-to cream cheese frosting, adding more (and better quality) butter and less cream cheese until I had something undeniably rich and decadent with enough tang to offset the sweetness of the cake without giving away the cream cheese. It spread beautifully at room temperature and set well in the fridge without becoming rock hard, and even avoided the super-saccharine flavour of most decorating frostings when I stiffened it with extra icing sugar. I tinted it dark red for the lettering and Russian tip flowers and the colour stayed true. The flavour was incomparable though - to the extent that my sister complimented it, and asked for me to make it again for her birthday cake! If that's not prime testimony, I don't know what is.

As for the rest of the decorations, I guess you can say I was in a "Beauty and the Beast" frame of mind (one of our classes is doing the play this year and I'm immersed in the song and dance a lot). I decided on a "mirror" theme with silver spray for the "glass" and dark chocolate filigree with gold flecks for the "frame". The final touch was a chocolate line-work rose. Delicate, delicious, and chocolate... all the chocolate!

Red Velvet Birthday Cake

Do you make birthday cakes at home? What's your favourite recipe?

Monday, April 30, 2018

Two Toned Biscotti

These two toned biscotti are crispy, dunkable and a great combination of chocolate and vanilla-berry flavour.

Two Toned Biscotti

Most people know I have a thing for making biscotti. Every year, the holiday baskets get at least one variety tucked inside, but just because there's no snow on the ground (finally!) doesn't mean the crisp, dunkable cookies are off the menu. I love making the cookies for their ease and versatility - you can have any flavour under the sun, add nuts or not, and making them gluten free, vegan or both is a snap compared to something like cakes or sugar cookies.

The funny thing is, when it comes to eating biscotti, I take a pass. I'm definitely in the chewy cookie camp, and I never liked even dunking chocolate chip cookies in milk, so the whole "dip in your coffee" aspect is kind of lost on me. That said, almost everyone around me - even haters of the gourmet, coffee-shop biscotti - love mine on their own, so I guess I could give them another go some day! One thing I had always wanted to do but never tried was making a two-flavour biscotti. Originally my idea was to make something akin to a marble cake, with random bits of vanilla and chocolate throughout the cookies. However, for simplicity's sake (and because I wasn't sure if the cookies would bake into a cohesive whole) I opted to simply layer the dough, which made for an equally stunning presentation. Rather than go for "plain" vanilla on the bottom, though, I folded in some pulverized freeze dried berries, which added a hint of flavour but no real colour to speak of. In the future, I would definitely leave some of the fruit in larger "bits" for that visual pop, but the flavour is spot on!

One thing I forget about biscotti when I haven't made them in a while is that the initial log does swell and spread in the oven slightly. Layering the slightly heavier chocolate dough on top of the vanilla forced the log to become wider than normal, which was fine but made the sliced fingers very long. To compensate, I sliced each cookie in half crosswise so that it was more manageable, and next time I'd make sure that the log was long and very narrow before going into the oven!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Asian Pear and Cranberry Crisp

Asian Pear and Cranberry Crisp is so easy thanks to a topping of pre-made granola. Its a comforting dessert or (mostly) healthy breakfast!  


Asian Pear and Cranberry Crisp

When Spring rolled around on the calendar this year, I was more than ready to start breaking out the fresh, bright flavours of the season and re-energize my cooking. However, Mother Nature made other plans and gave my sister and I the birthday gifts of ice storms and blinding cold. The awful weather outside, coupled with the end of my university term complete with papers galore and exam week, meant only one thing could possibly be on rotation: comfort food.

When I think of comfort food, I automatically revert back to the autumns of my childhood where, after an afternoon of apple picking, mom (and sometimes us kids) would bake scads of pies, squares and crisps which were eagerly devoured once they feel just below burn-your-mouth temperature. To this day, the combination of warm, juicy fruit and toasty grains makes me feel like curling up in a big cozy quilt with a book or a good Disney classic movie.

This crisp was beyond easy to make from the fruit I had on hand, and was the perfect blend of sweet, tart, nutty and grainy. I love the sweet, crisp, juicy bite of Asian pears (especially the brown "Korean" pears) and always stock up when they look their best at the store. However, some weeks my eyes are bigger than my stomach, and they sit in the fridge becoming just a little too ripe for me to enjoy out of hand (I'm picky!). However, they have lots of life left, and rather than turn them into sauce or leather (two of my other favourite "use ups") I peeled and chopped up the stragglers, tossed them with fresh cranberries, a bit of sugar and some spice before finally topping the works with a bag of pre-made granola. Granola - whether homemade or store-bought, is by far my favourite "cheat" ingredient for crisps - you don't need added butter or sugar, most already have a good mix of grains and other crunchy "bits" for texture, and it's sturdy enough that it won't sog out or burn up in the baking process. Now, I will never knock my mom's crumb mixture for her apple squares - that stuff is legend - but for a weeknight dessert? This hits the spot.


Asian Pear and Cranberry Crisp

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Only Oats #CreativeCookieExchange

Only oats go into the "flour" of these chewy cookies adapted from Alton Brown. Perfectly sweet and buttery, they're a great after school or lunchbox treat!

Only Oats


Being a private school kid since age 3, I was fortunate enough as a kid to have my grandparents watch me before and after school for years instead of being stuck in daycare or with a babysitter. My grandfather, who drove right up until he passed away, would pull the "after school" chauffeur shift for my friends (their next-door neighbours) and I, while their mom (who was a school administrator) took us in each morning. It was a pretty good deal, if I do say so myself, especially since every so often Grandpa would take a wide detour and we'd wind up at the Dad's Cookie outlet and bakery.  Dad's was not a brand of cookie found on store shelves everywhere - the Christie-owned name is a completely different animal - and any cookies I can buy today don't hold a candle to those fresh-baked ones of my youth. We always had a choice of chocolate chip or oatmeal when we pulled up to that non-descript warehouse, but Grandpa and I never had to think about it - the soft, chewy oatmeal cookies were winners time and time again.

When I switched schools in grade 3 and my grandparents moved to east of the GTA, our cookie runs stopped. I tried a couple "storebought" brands of oatmeal cookies to get my fix, and even helped my mom make a batch or two, but I was always disappointed. The cookies were hard, too flat or too cakey, tasting of sugar rather than oats, and the grains themselves were often sharp, jagged health hazards waiting to happen. For a while, I tried finding my ideal oatmeal cookie recipe on my own (documented way back on this blog) but again, I couldn't clinch it.

Enter Alton Brown.

I am unabashedly a huge fan of Brown's shows and recipes. I chalk this up to being a closet major science geek (and the daughter / sister of less closeted science geeks), because I love understanding what the purposes of each ingredient in a recipe are and how to maximize their potential. In the case of these cookies, AB went all the way to ensure the oat flavour was dominant: he used only oats as the grain. No wheat, rye, spelt, barley, rice or other grains contaminate the pure goodness of the oats here! In addition, the large-flake oats are toasted, bringing out a lovely nuttiness. A butter and brown sugar mixture adds a lovely caramel note and chewy texture to the cookies without smacking you over the head with tooth-aching saccharine flavour, and only the merest hint of cinnamon and nutmeg are there to accent the entire works.

Only Oats

Sharp eyes will notice a few variations between my recipe and AB's. First, I had some home-ground oat flour sitting in my freezer, so instead of toasting a whole batch of oats and grinding half, as in the original, I substituted the weight ground for the oat flour. Second, I used salted butter - it's what we always have in stock at home and what I'm used to working with (although I recently made some luxurious buttercream frosting with high-butterfat unsalted butter and am dying to try shortbreads with it). Last, and I believe most crucial to my success, I chilled my dough overnight. This allowed the oats to hydrate, eliminating the glass-shard phenomena, and also helped "glue" the cookies together so they didn't spread all over the parchment. Since these cookies are gluten free in essence (I use certified GF oats), and don't use a gum to bind, any chance to let the pentosans work is welcome. On that note, parchment (I swear by PaperChef) or SilPat is an absolute must with these guys - a greased cookie sheet equals tortilla-flat cookies that burn, while not greasing results in cookies burned onto the sheet in places and overly gooey in others. Take my advice: parchment saves so much frustration.

The resulting cookies checked all the boxes for me: chewy, just enough softness, sweet without cloying and above all, oaty. The only thing missing was the Beach Boys playing in my grandpa's minivan, and of course the man himself next to me munching away like the kid inside all of us. I write about my grandpa a lot on here, but he and I shared a lot of time, music and food together, and recipes like these keep those ties close.

Do you ever cook things that remind you of childhood? What's your favourite childhood food story?

The #CreativeCookieExchange is baking with WHOLE GRAINS in April and we’d love for you to join us! The possibilities begin with whole wheat and oats, but maybe you’ll find a new grain to bake with in your kitchen such as quinoa, amaranth, or buckwheat!


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! If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links.

If you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:
Amaranth Lemon Cookies from A Shaggy Dough Story
Buckwheat Toffee Cookies from Food Lust People Love
Loaded Homemade Aussie Bites from A Baker's House
Only Oats Cookies from What Smells So Good?
Rye Chocolate Chip Cookies from Karen's Kitchen Stories

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Chocolate Scotch Eggs

These Scotch eggs are gluten free, nut free and super chocolatey! Who says Easter is over? No Creme Eggs? The brownies are divine on their own!

Chocolate Scotch Eggs

Ever since one of my co-workers made "real" Scotch eggs for a lesson on the layers of the earth (practical geology!), I've been fascinated with the sweet version. The combination of Creme Eggs and brownies has always been more palatable to me than the traditional deep fried hard boiled egg / sausage concoction - I am not a fan of eggs in general, and hard boiled eggs and I have never gotten along well. Creme Eggs, though, were my kryptonite every Easter as a kid - I would find exactly 3 "regular size" eggs hidden amongst all the other "standard" milk chocolate eggs and knew I had to make them last. This was an issue because back then, Creme Eggs really were only around until Easter, when they disappeared for another 11 months. It was definitely a bittersweet experience, especially since Easter usually coincided with either my sister's, my dad's or my birthday, meaning that we got less candy from the Easter bunny because "he knew we'd get lots of chocolate from home".

Eventually, not only was the Creme Egg "season" extended beyond a month, but Cadbury started coming out with miniature versions of their super-sweet classic. The great thing with the mini eggs was that you didn't get a massive sugar rush after having one or two, but they still killed that craving. Even better was their texture when frozen - the fondant melted slowly and completely rather than getting caught in the back of your throat, and it took longer to eat them so they lasted longer. When I found a bag of the British version (sorry, they're better) in with the "last chance before Easter" bin at the store, I snapped them up with the sole purpose of turning them into Scotch eggs. 

Some of the recipes I had found online called for full-size Creme Eggs to be covered in the brownie "cake pop" dough, but that just seemed extremely excessive - I, a bona-fide Creme Egg (and brownie) lover, would never be able to finish one, so I was not about to expect others to! The mini eggs, once covered in the brownies and graham crumbs, fit perfectly in an egg carton and were a perfect dessert size. As I was making them for a gluten free friend of mine, I was thrilled to find that the UK Mini Creme Eggs are GF (sorry, domestic CE, you need to step up your game). I whipped up a batch of basic, cocoa-based GF brownies and got to work. They looked fairly close to "real" Scotch eggs (smelled a lot better though) and the brownies that didn't become coating were enjoyed by two of my other pals. Even though Easter was over, and it was my birthday party, I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate!

Do you bake or cook for others on your birthday?

Friday, April 6, 2018

Crazy Cakes

Vanilla and chocolate wacky cakes are super simple, delicious and completely vegan, perfect for birthdays!

IMG_20180405_125727_985

Full disclosure – I had intended to write and post this recipe earlier this week – as in, on my birthday (Wednesday) – but by the time I got around to looking at my computer and editing photos and whatnot, it was about 11PM and I couldn’t think of a single word. Luckily, the cakes were much easier to make – and since I did wait I was even able to take some photos of the decorated pieces. Every year for my birthday, my Home Ec classes get to decorate cake as a little fun activity. Home Ec isn’t exactly a hard class, but there is generally more work involved than maneuvering a piping bag – and as an added bonus the kids get a hit of sugar in the middle of the afternoon when they’re dragging (and I get to send them home right after – sorry Mom and Dad!).

This year, though, instead of me making the cakes for every class, I had my grade 7 and 8 groups make their own cake to decorate. In my classroom, we have very little in the way of electric appliances (case in point, I have to bake everything at home). Cakes, therefore, have to be simple and minimal effort – one bowl, a few measuring cups and a whisk or spatula is ideal. Since this group is relatively good in the kitchen, following recipes and even cleaning up after themselves, I gave them the option of making chocolate or vanilla wacky cake. They chose one of each, which worked for me!

One of the things I love about wacky cake is that it’s really easy to make them allergy-friendly. We have a few vegetarians, one vegan and a few dairy and egg allergies to cater for in that class, so with the recipe already being egg-free it only took a swap for the milk for everyone to enjoy. I chose a type of non-dairy milk that I’ve never used before – pea milk – which has a rich flavour and milk-like texture with no “beaniness”, even when unsweetened and unflavoured. The kids gave me a bit of a side-eye when I opened the bottle, but the resulting cake was met with nothing but praise.

The only downside of a cake this easy is that it’s far too simple to make a lot of them! While the kids were excited about being able to decorate big pieces of cake, the decorating icing turned the multipurpose room into a veritable Jackson Pollock painting. Luckily food dye washes out – eventually!


Wacky Cakes

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Irish Chocolate Fudge

This creamy fudge is kissed with Irish cream flavoured creamer for an alcohol free treat that is SO easy to make!

Irish Chocolate Fudge

As a redhead, a lot of people assume that I'm of mainly Irish stock. True, I love me some Celtic music (especially from home-grown Irish Canadian groups), potatoes, cabbage, Bailey's and Guinness, but based on what we can find out about my ethnic background, there may be a speck or two of Irish blood in my past but not much more. Granted, my entire maternal grandmother's past is a mystery (she was adopted as an infant) and she does have the impish charm and humour of a leprechaun (to say nothing of her height), so there might be something there. My cousin (same side) and I are the only two gingers in the family as well, so maybe we're the Irish luck shining through.

Pureblood Irish or not, I do have a taste for both Bailey's and Guinness, having discovered both at a relatively young age. As a child and teenager, Bailey's was definitely my addition of choice to lackluster hot chocolate mix or instant coffee, and I still love Irish cream flavoured brews today. The combination of the warming, creamy liqueur and chocolate was a match made in Heaven, and while I can't drink alcohol any more, I have no problems cooking it into treats with others.

Not really being "into" the whole St. Patrick's Day thing (it is kind of boring when you can't drink and want to sleep at 10PM) I put off making this fudge for the second time around until later this week. Originally, I whipped up a pan of this candy for the holidays, and it was met with such acclaim I had to make it again. Oddly enough, while there is definitely an Irish cream nuance to the bittersweet chocolate base, there's no actual alcohol in the recipe. My secret lies in Bailey’s Coffee Creamer, which tastes almost as good as it's alcoholic cousin and definitely remains more stable in baking and candy-making, since there's no volatile alcohol to burn off. The subtle sweetness and "pseudo-kick" of the creamer, along with the rich and slight tannic nature of the chocolate offset the super-sweet marshmallow base - it was the first time that I had ever worked with a melted marshmallow base for fudge, and I can say I would only do it again provided I was working with a high-cocoa chocolate - the mixture would be far too saccharine otherwise.

Since I abhor trying to fit parchment properly into a loaf pan, I relied on my tried-and-true silicone model (which I only ever use for candy making). It didn't let me down - the fudge popped out cleanly once set, and with a hot knife clean slices were easy (unlike the photos, which show my previous attempts with room-temperature blades). Wrapped in parchment, then foil, slices last a good long while in the fridge, but I can also vouch for them chopped up into small cubes and frozen for a weeknight ice cream topper.

Irish Chocolate Fudge

Did you celebrate St. Patty's Day? What did you do? 

P.S. I know my posting schedule has been a bit lackluster - to say the least. I'm sorry, schoolwork and "work work" are getting the best of me this semester! Here's to one more month left of this term!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Spicy Popcorn Crisps #Breadbakers

Ground popcorn, hot sauce and just a touch of flour make for crispy, cracker like snacks.

Spicy Popcorn Crisps

I grew up in the heyday of Kernels, where you couldn't get two steps into a mall entrance without smelling the aroma of (fake, but yummy) buttery popcorn mixed with an inexplicable sweetness. Popcorn buckets were a huge thing at birthday parties, especially school ones where popcorn became a "failsafe" option for those with nut allergies. People fought over the "good" kind, depending on their flavour preference, and you knew your friend had your back when she brought out the flavour shakers just for he two of you.

But you want to know a secret?
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I hate pre-made popcorn.

Now, this is not to say I hate popcorn entirely, or even that I'm a popcorn snob. I will eat air-, stove-, campfire- and even microwave-popped popcorn without issue (well, unless there's coconut oil involved)... anything, as long as it gets to me hot. Cold popcorn is listless and chewy, definitely not what I want in a supposedly crunchy snack. It's fine for Christmas tree garlands and making crafts, I just can't be bothered eating the stuff.

However, my abhorrence for pre-fab popcorn was outweighed by my cheapness frugality recently, where a party favour containing baggies of cheese-dusted popcorn came home with me. I wasn't about to eat it, certainly, and it didn't look like anyone else in the house was going to either - we had all gone to the same party and thus had multiple portions of the stuff. I knew there had to be some flavour, and most importantly texture benefits left in the popcorn, so I started scouting around. I didn't find any savoury recipes specifically using popcorn, but I did find cornmeal-based cracker recipes and thought "well, they're both corn, and I can grind the popcorn to a meal, so why not?". I had the ingredients anyways, and the result was likely to be edible at the very least because crackers are meant to be dry!

The first round was not as much of a success as I hoped - there was too much milk and not enough flour in the dough, and the best consistency I got was a very loose batter which was nowhere near stiff enough to roll. It made a sort of crisp flatbread in the oven, spread on a baking sheet - come to think of it, I could have made a pretty good pizza on it. While it was crisp on the outside, the inside was moist and chewy - not cracker-like. So with the remaining popcorn (which I had ground in the food processor to bits) I tried again, reducing the milk and adding flour by the tablespoon, finally documenting the amount needed to create a shape-able, if moist, dough. I was able to spread the mixture on the pan with a palette knife and flatten it with a rolling pin over parchment to keep it from sticking, but cutting it right away would have been disaster. Instead I gave it the biscotti treatment - pre-baking it to firmness, slicing it, then baking again until crunchy.

This time, it worked - and how! I love spice in almost everything, and Louisiana style hot sauce is my jam, so of course it went in (and the half teaspoon in the recipe is conservative - I used more). These were the perfect snack to munch on their own, but I hear tell they make a fine base for guacamole too.

This month the #BreadBakers are making crackers, and these now fit the bill! Looking at the array going on this time around, I'd say I'd best get into the kitchen soon and give a few of these a try!

Enjoy the diversity of cracker recipes this month!


BreadBakers

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Cheddar Sourdough Biscuits #SundaySupper

These cheesy, flaky biscuits are made tangy with sourdough toss-off and rich with sharp cheddar.

Cheddar Sourdough Biscuits

Even though I have a sourdough starter in my fridge (and have for almost 10 years) I sadly don't bake with it a lot. It's a shame, really - mom loves a good, crusty sourdough loaf as much as I used to (before all that allergy nonsense), and the smell of one baking is definitely bliss. Instead, I feed it every few weeks, keeping it at a low enough hydration that only minimal feedings are required.While I can keep the tossing off and replenishing frequency down, there's no denying that eventually it becomes necessary, and I always feel guilty for throwing away a perfectly good ingredient.

Ironically it was an excess of shredded Cheddar, not sourdough starter, that led me to this recipe. It's been a long time since biscuits were on the menu, especially since we really only like buttermilk varieties. There's something about the tang and richness of buttermilk that sets the scones apart from the regular storebought tea biscuits. My original recipe calls for not only buttermilk, but shortening, which made for a fluffy, tender result, but I actually has neither on hand - buttermilk is not a weekly grocery item for us, and unfortunately the mice inhabiting our walls think that shortening is delicious (seriously - they ate almost entire boxes of the stuff, leaving only the ends of the carboard and parchment behind). Instead, this recipe used sourdough toss-off as the acidic "liquid" - genius if you ask me! Since I was going for a rich, tea-time treat and not a simple accompaniment to soup, I knew I'd have to fill in the creamy dairy component with butter. While I love shortening in plain biscuits, it lacks the richness that I seek in a scone.


Cheddar Sourdough Biscuits

As luck would have it, we not only had a good stash of butter on hand, but a god stash of good butter on hand! I'm pretty used to the grocery store blocks in my cooking, and truly they taste fine, behave well in pastry and cakes and are workhorses in the kitchen. However, for my mom's birthday party a few rich dishes were on the menu, including a browned butter and sage pasta and chicken Marsala, and we splurged on two pounds of high-fat, European-style cultured butter for the occasion. While most of it went into birthday cake batter, frosting and the two aforementioned dishes, we did have leftovers - and I just had to try them in biscuits. After all, if pedestrian butter is good, the higher-quality stuff must be better!

I was not disappointed - between the light tang from the cultured butter, the sourdough with just a little bite and sharp, aged Cheddar cheese, these scones were definitely hitting the mark flavour wise. They were buttery enough to not need an accompaniment, yet not so rich that you couldn't spread jam or honey on them for brunch.

This week for #SundaySupper we are embracing the "cheesiness" of the cooking world. We have a great range of savouries here, from Irish Nachos to risotto and even a souffle (Pies and Plots is brave!). Take a look at our offerings and give them a shoutout!

Cheesy Appetizers and Sides

Cheesy Main Courses

Sunday Supper MovementThe Sunday Supper Movement is committed to bringing our readers delicious recipes that encourage them to gather and eat together around the family table. Search for your favorite ingredients on our Sunday Supper website. Also check out the Sunday Supper Pinterest boards for plenty more ideas and inspiration.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Red Wine Brownies with Icing

While not visually impressive, these red wine brownies made with an easy home-made mix taste ethereal and will delight any chocolate - or red wine - lover!

Red Wine Brownies

If you read yesterday's post, you know my family' love for brownies and my quest for a quick and easy homemade brownie mix to rival the boxes out there. The mix makes dense, chewy and chocolatey plain brownies on it's own, but since we're coming up to the first major birthday circuit of the year I wanted to try something a little more frou-frou with it - and adding red wine to anything is an automatic plus in these parts! Oddly enough, I always seem to have a bottle of red around, even though I don't drink - one of the perks (?) of being a teacher is that at least once a year a decent bottle of wine falls into your possession as a thank you gift! This time, I broke into a nice Chianti (no, not Hannibal style...) for both the brownies themselves as well as the icing, and the flavour, while subtle, added just enough "grown up" flair to earn a position on the dessert table.

Icing, you say? What icing? OK, you got me there - I swear I took photos of these brownies fully iced and decorated, gorgeous in their glossy glory. However, my relationship with technology (in particular, computers) lately has been nothing if not problematic (I spent most of January and half of February on a borrowed laptop after the hard dive, followed by the motherboard, on mine crashed) and the transition between camera and computer seems to have some gremlins in the works. I would say voles, but they're busy chewing up our yard at the moment and don't have time for wires. In any case, all I have is a shot of the corner of these bars, where you can just see a hint of the redness shining through. The icing is dark and rich, as chocolate should be, and carries more of the fruity notes of the wine than the tannins - a major plus.

You may notice the entire recipe is vegan (check your wine if you're not sure, all ours are), which definitely makes it a crowd pleaser! The visual appearance of the brownies unadorned won't make your jaw drop, but that's what icing is for. It worked for Little Debbie, it can work for me! Of course, if the glossy, boil-and-pour icing isn't your thing, a fudge, cream cheese or even peanut butter frosting would be awesome on these. Too much? Dust with a little icing sugar and munch on!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Homemade Brownie MIx

This brownie mix makes rich, chewy brownies and by swapping the liquid you can make a variety of treats.
 
One of my old school friends was a diehard Brownie and Girl Guide, now her daughters are too!


We are a brownie-loving bunch here - dense, chewy, or fudgy, iced or not, full of chocolate chips or cocoa alone. Now my sister and I are brownie purists, eschewing the "textural" chunks present in most store-bought brownies - I'm talking to you, pecans and walnuts - and since they often find their place in packed lunches frosting simply isn't practical. In terms of overall practicality, brownies are not the most difficult thing in the world to whip up, however I am somewhat ashamed to admit that we have at least ten boxes of mix in the pantry right now (my sister only likes one kind, homemade be darned). 

While I have no problem making a batch of brownies from scratch (melted chocolate included) on a weekend or for a once in a while treat, it is hard to beat the convenience of a boxed mix. However, I'm not necessarily a fan of the quality of the ingredients in mixes - too often have I bitten into a brownie and been greeted with nothing but a crumbly saccharine mess. Making my own, then, was the answer, and since I based the "mix" off one of my favourite vegan brownie recipes making the bars afterwards is even easier than your usual box. I used a mix of flours - all purpose for structure, whole wheat for a delicate nuttiness and fibre, and sweet rice for fudginess - as well as both white and brown sugar for the perfect balance of crispy top and rich, moist crumb. I do implore you to use the best cocoa you have available for this - after all, you want to taste chocolate, not sugar, in a well made brownie.

Stay tuned tomorrow for how I took this basic mix and elevated it for a special occasion!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Chili-Spiked Green Tomato Chutney

A ridiculous amount of chilies go into this green tomato chutney, with just enough sweet and sour to even the playing field.

Chili-Spiked Green Tomato Chutney

I have yet to meet a Canadian homegrower or farmer who can finish the growing season with all ripe produce. At the end of the summer, we're often left with at least a few unripe peppers, cucumbers and squash - but nothing is so prevalent as the green tomato crop. Where I live, we have essentially three and a half months of decent growing weather outdoors, and when you grow from seed as I do even starting in March won't guarantee full production. Luckily, I've become pretty well versed in ways of using up those green tomatoes that will never ripen, no matter how much windowsill love you give them (if they've started to turn red, though, into the window box they go) - mincemeat (times three) and baked goods are definitely great, if surprising, sweet options. But what if you want to embrace the unripe fruit's tart and crunchy side?

Well, if you're like me, you turn to a different kind of preserve - chutney. I love making chutney almost as much as my mom loves eating it, which is no surprise given it's irresistible sweet-sour-savoury flavour. Last year when I canned up this batch, I added a punch of heat with the last of our garden's chilies - serranos and Thai bird peppers. Understandably, straight out of the pot this condiment is hellfire-like in spice (especially if you don't de-rib and seed the peppers), but I (and those I gave jars of this to) are glad to report, after hanging out in the pantry (if you can it) or fridge (without a waterbath) for at least a week, the burn mellows to a pleasant zip in amongst the sour and sweet. It has enough flavour to stand up to hearty creamy curries and meat dishes as well as create works of delicious art when mixed with plain rice or quinoa and a veggie or two. As I've mentioned before on this blog, my mom likes nothing more than mixing chutney into a plain stir fry, but she also dunks pita or naan into it as a side dish.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Winter Vegetable Stew

This Winter Vegetable Stew is hearty and rich tasting thanks to caramelized onions and lean beef, and full of nutrition from local kohlrabi and homegrown cabbage and carrots! A wild rice blend seals the deal.

Winter Vegetable Stew

February is always one of the longest months to get through. It's grey and dreary, the weather alternating between biting cold, freezing rain, blowing wind and snowing buckets.  Not only does the weather work against us, but for me as a teacher knowing March Break is this close makes time drag on even slower - yes, even though we had a 2 1/2 week break in December! Unlike last year's unseasonably warm (yet welcome) temperatures, we've been on the chilly end this year, delighting the skiers in our midst. I, on the other hand, am always cold (as in, I have a heated blanket on almost 24/7 and wear a heated jacket inside), so until the temperatures crest over 20C I am sticking with warming, hearty comfort foods.

Thankfully, the foods best suited for warming us up in the chilly seasons are also some of the cheapest to make - take this stew for instance. Even though for me the cabbage, carrots, broth and tomato sauce were essentially free (garden hauls that kept exceedingly well in the fridge along with homemade ingredients), if I needed to buy them it would have still been pennies out of my pocket. My original idea was to make an "unstuffed cabbage roll" soup, but as I kept cooking and adding things the whole medley morphed into a celebration of all the winter vegetables and warming flavours I loved. A bowl of it freshly made was perfect alongside a slab of rye bread (homemade of course), but like all good things, this actually tasted better a few days later and even after being frozen. Good thing, too, because with all the veggies, beef and rice, this recipe makes more than enough food to go around!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Strawberry Caramel Sundae Sauce

Strawberry Caramel Sundae Sauce is unlike anything you've topped ice cream with before! Don't stop at dessert though - those breakfast waffles are calling!

Strawberry Caramel Sundae Sauce

I don't know about you, but I cannot dream of eating vanilla ice cream (or frozen yogurt) without a sundae sauce of some kind. The craving only ever happens with vanilla, though, never another flavour such as chocolate or cookies n' cream. I guess I've never been able to get onto the vanilla-only bandwagon (sorry Dad!).

Anyways, a vanilla base is the perfect visual and gustatory canvas for all kinds of sauces, particularly berry-based ones. While I will always be partial to cherry topping (the best sundaes I ever had were made with warmed cherry pie filling out of a can... don't judge), this homemade strawberry one is pretty darn awesome. It's not simply a super-sweet coulis, a pie filling or even a melted jam like some other sundae sauces - this one starts off as a caramelized sugar syrup that gets blended with fresh strawberries, lemon juice and vanilla until thick, just sweet enough and still fruit-forward. It's natural tang makes it the perfect pairing to sweet ice cream (or even vanilla flavoured Greek yogurt), but it's sweet enough to warm and pour over morning waffles for an extra treat.

While I've provided instructions for canning this sauce for pantry storage, it does keep a good long while in the fridge as well, provided it's in a sterile jar. I have not tried freezing this, and probably wouldn't recommend it as the sugar structure may suffer. If you try it, let me know how it turns out!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Triple Chocolate Fudge

Triple Chocolate Fudge is smooth, rich and totally indulgent!

Triple Chocolate Fudge

I used to dread Valentine's Day. Being the mousy, somewhat overweight, redheaded bookworm I was, making friends as a kid was hard enough - let alone sparking crushes within the limited assortment of boys in my private school class. To keep things "fair" (and spare any hurt feelings), our school rule was to bring cards and / or treats for everyone, or nobody at all. I dutifully filled out my Power Rangers, Winnie-the-Pooh or Rainbow Brite cards the weekend before, taking care to make sure I picked the right card for that guy. By lunchtime on the 14th, I had a bagful of folded cards, which I opened at home to find nothing but hastily scrawled names, or more commonly cards addressed to "my friend". 

High school didn't really bode any better - Valentine's Day was marked by the annual candygram fundraisers rather than classroom card swaps, and by homeroom you knew whether you mattered or not. By Grade 10 my friends and I had sworn off the trivial and commercialized nature of the holiday, and ever since I have yet to buy into it again. Don't get me wrong - I'm not 100% cynical about the whole romance thing (just 80%) - but I'd rather treasure and celebrate love every day, not just because some martyr happened to die and somehow get tied to Cupid in the middle of February. 

The commercialization of Valentine's Day isn't all bad, though - it usually heralds the start of a period of excellently-priced chocolate products in the stores that runs right through until Mother's Day, or at the very least, Easter. I can stock up on all sort of good stuff - Lindt, Godiva, Ghirardelli or if I'm really lucky, Scharffen Berger. I honestly don't know why I stock up on it like it's going out of style though - I rarely use it en masse, preferring the pure taste of cooca. However, since it is coming up to the big chocolate holiday, I wanted to embrace the ingredient and recreate a recipe we made when I was in elementary school for the occasion - fudge.

This fudge is extraordinarily easy, for two reasons: one, it's done in a single bowl, no pot required. Two, it's done in the microwave, and you don't need a thermometer to keep track of it's chemistry (I guess that's three reasons, but whatever). The original recipe was a simple condensed milk fudge with a bag of semisweet chocolate chips - a sinfully sweet treat perfect for the child's palate in all of us (especially when sprinkled with crushed pink and red Smarties, as we did back then). I had access to the good stuff this time around though - and wanted to max out the chocolate flavour as much as I could. Inspiration came in the form of chocolate sweetened condensed milk picked up from a local Hispanic food shop, and I knew combining it with the bittersweet chocolate would be amazing. When I later discovered a bottle of chocolate extract in the pantry, I was even more delighted - three chocolate nuances in a melt in your mouth fudge, with enough bitterness to keep the condensed milk at bay, was nirvana.

Whipping up this triple chocolate version is as easy as the usual one, and the hardest part truly is waiting for it to firm up in the fridge. If you're keeping it for yourself (a tempting proposition to be sure), I suggest only slicing off what you plan to eat at one tine, keeping the remainder wrapped in plastic, then foil in the fridge to keep it from drying out or soaking up other fridge odours (Parmesan fudge is just delightful, I'm told ;-) ). Otherwise, slice and wrap individually for your very gracious recipients to enjoy as they see fit. Leftovers? Dice and freeze for a decadent ice cream topping - but don't say I didn't warn you about eating the whole thing!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Honey Drops

A local, organic and raw honey shines in these hard candies, which are perfect for sucking on or melting into a cup of tea.
 
Homemade Honey Drops

Remember when I mentioned caramels and sour candy were the only two types of candy I truly enjoyed? I lied - or rather, I forgot - about the third one: honey candy. To be fair, I haven't had the privilege of eating one of those since I was about 7 years old - my mom used to work with a woman who had a home apiary and made the most incredible hard candy filled with her home-spun honey. I have never figured out how to make the liquid-filled variety of hard candy, but these nuggets of amber are just as amazing.

Homemade Honey DropsEven though honey is not the only sugar used in these (I'm sure it's possible, but I don't have a recipe for those), they taste of pure, unadulterated honey. That said, make sure the honey you use is one you love the flavour of (I used honey my coworker spun from her hives!), and don't pick a super dark one like buckwheat because it can taste on the bitter side. The size and shape of the candy is also up to you, and should match what you plan on doing with them - I used this silicone hexagonal mould, filled to the top, for candy pieces, but filling it halfway made perfect wafers for sweetening tea. For a small taste (or less tea sweetening), that ice cube mould from the Lemon Drops is perfect. Finally, I used the last of the candy syrup to pour swizzle sticks on silpat, which made honey lemon tea so easy to make.

Now, I'm harping on tea for this because that's a fairly standard application for honey, but you do you! I still firmly support eating these "just is" because they're flat-out delicious, even if they don't have any of the active, flu-fighting compounds found in raw honey. Hey, I never claimed they were medicine - but if you add some food-grade eucalyptus or ginger essential oil you might get a little added boost!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Lemon Drops

Sweet and sour lemon drops anyone? A dash of citric acid gives a traditional hard candy a pucker.

Sweet and Sour Lemon Drops

I've never been a huge candy fan. Hard, soft, taffy, gummy... none of them really float my boat, and if chocolate's in the vicinity that battleship is sunk. I make two (or is it three) exceptions to this rule - caramels and sour candy. The possible third is fudge, but since I only like chocolate fudge I generally exclude it from the "candy" category, like I exclude chocolate covered strawberries from the "fruit" category. At any rate, my adoration for both caramels and sour candy runs deep - caramels were a favourite of my Grandpa, and it was him that introduced me to them by slipping me one or two gold-wrapped hard caramels as we drove home from school. The sour candy didn't become a favourite until I was old enough to go to the corner store with my friends, sans adults. There, a few nickels could get you a baggie of sour keys or Warheads that would last the afternoon.

While sour keys were definitely a favourite, and I never turned down Sour Patch Kids, I still preferred the drawn out experience of sucking on a sour hard candy. Since making hard candy is drop-dead easy (and looks so impressive!) I decided to make my own sour lemon drops on a whim, pouring the molten sugar into a teeny-tiny ice cube mould to set. The small size meant popping two or three at once was possible, and coated your whole mouth with the lemony tang - something I definitely consider a plus. Unlike most other hard candies, this also doesn't use corn syrup at all, relying on cream of tartar to prevent graininess.

This is a small batch, which worked for me, but if you want to make more it will double well (though I wouldn't try tripling it). The gel food colouring is optional - you candy will be essentially clear without it however (good for pranks... just saying). If it is humid the day you want to make candy - or in your kitchen for that matter - cook the candy just a few degrees hotter (302F-ish) and make sure to coat the candy in icing sugar or they will get sticky. Goes without saying, but don't put it in the fridge either, unless you like melted sugar goo.