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!


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?
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 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.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

French Onion Dip

If you're a lover of caramelized onions, homemade French Onion Dip is a fantastic way to indulge in their rich bittersweet taste

French Onion Dip

There is something cathartic for me about caramelizing onions. A big, heavy pot fulled to the brim with yellowy-white half-moons slowly but surely condenses into almost nothing, and what the vegetable loses in volume it gains in a caramel-like sweetness and a luxurious texture not found in any other food. Even people who hate the taste of onions as a rule - my sister or stepdad, for instance - are drawn to the kitchen by the unmistakable aroma of perfectly done caramelized ones, and if you love onions the allure is ten times stronger.

Now, I will put caramelized onions on many things - pasta, rice (so good on Camargue red rice), garlic bread... even roasted green beans (leave the casserole at the door). However, the one thing you will never see me eating is French Onion Dip. The storebought kinds are flat in flavour and overwhelmingly fake-tasting, and the one "homemade" version I've had at a house party tasted like weirdly sweet-sour-bitter mayo that had gone ever so slightly bad. I know I'm a bad judge of things like this - I'm just not a fan of creamy sauces and dips - but I knew I could make a version that at least tasted of real onions, had a touch more oomph to the cream base, and that was still easy enough that my grade 7 and 8 students could make it themselves. I tinkered with an onion-garlic dip that I had clipped from a magazine a few years ago, not only adding more onions but swapping some of the mayo for yogurt, adding smoked paprika and letting the medley sit overnight before serving - a key step to preventing bites of just "cream" or just "onion".

Adding the extra onions was mostly fluke - I made a double batch of this with the kids and my class total was 16 students, but most children were able to decimate a whole onion quite capably (albeit with a lot of complaining about watery eyes). The original recipe only called for 3 onions, but since it was French Onion Dip, I asked them if adding some extras was okay. Thank goodness for the palates of that class - and all their hard work! The extras were sauteed and frozen for later lessons, and the kids learned the lesson of prepping ahead. Of course, most of them didn't realize what they were learning as they downed bowlfuls of carrot coins and dip, but I'll take what I can get!

French Onion Dip

While I won't argue that slicing and caramelizing onions takes time, this dip is quite simple to make - easy enough to get your (older) kids in the kitchen to help when there's a house party coming up (like say, the SuperBowl). I guarantee they will be proud to serve "their masterpiece" on the big day.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

This luscious, decadent cake is 100% whole grain, vegan and full of Chianti for good measure. A topping of melted chocolate and a sprinkle of chips just ups the ante.

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

Cake isn't just for kids, and certainly not just for birthdays! If the contents of our staff room are any indication, a simple weekday is permission to indulge a little. Of course, at the end of the day a drink and a slice of cake are occasionally in order... luckily there's a way to get both, whenever the mood strikes, without any risk of a hangover.

Like I mentioned when I made the cookies, red wine and dark chocolate are a great combination - even for people like me who detest vino in any (liquid) form. The richness of the cocoa is accented beautifully by the fruity notes of the wine, making a slice seem simply more decadent, rather than a one-note, "out of the box" flavour. While I appreciate that this is cake, and thus a "sometimes food", I also wanted to keep it slightly on the virtuous side - especially since cocoa andred wine are touted as health foods in some circles.

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

Applesauce is a common diet trick - certainly one mom and I utilized back in our Weight Watcher days - but it's pretty flavourless. Instead, I went with a flavoured applesauce, which doesn't seem like it would make that much of a difference. However, the strawberry in the applesauce plus the berries of the Chianti made the cake even better. I also utilized whole wheat pastry flour, which added a slightly nutty note without sacrificing texture. Of course, I couldn't serve a naked cake, so melted dark chocolate it was. A small slice was plenty to kill off any chocolate cravings, without any "winey" taste, and when covered with a cake dome it actually didn't stale in the fridge. I'm not sure if that's the wine talking, but either way I deem it a winner.

Do you bake with wine? What's your favourite recipe?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Cocoa Vino Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

These red wine and dark chocolate cookies are a socially acceptable, gluten free and vegan way to indulge in a tipple at work! 

Red Wine and Dark Chocolate Cookies

I'll let you all in on a secret: I loathe wine. Unlike every adult in my family (except my sister), I find the beverage bitter, sour and tannic to the point where my mouth feels like sandpaper. Luckily, my intolerance to alcohol allows me to skip the toasts at birthdays, weddings and the like, but every year I wind up the recipient of at least one bottle from a well-meaning parent or a fluke Secret Santa swap.

While I may detest the flavour of wine in a glass, I find I don't mind it as an ingredient in recipes. When the inclusion is a key component of a savoury dish - coq au vin, for instance - a good wine choice can accent the savoury flavours of the other ingredients and add a layer of luxury. In sweet recipes - especially those with a chocolate component (like brownies, sundae sauce and muffins) - red wine is an excellent bearer of complimentary berry and other fruit notes. The presence of alcohol in chocolatey desserts also serves the purpose of heightening the cocoa and vanilla elements of the dish by releasing the organic compounds in those ingredients. In the case of gluten free baking, the right wine, paired with the right cocoa, can obscure the "off" flavours sometimes present by the flour blends.

In these cookies, however, I am happy to report the wine is not there as a mask, but as a makeup of sorts - the rich berry notes of the Chianti I had on hand opened up the floral aspects of the high-end cocoa I received for Christmas, and the combination of the wine and the Dutch process cocoa turned the baked cookies a lovely deep red-black colour. The aroma of the wine was present during baking, but faded into the merest afterthought when the cookies had cooled, giving them an edge of "grown up" sophistication without screaming "frat party". Come Valentine's Day, these would be a great treat regardless of whether you are attached or not - chocolate is the food of love, so why should it be wrong to love chocolate?

Chocolate is always in fashion--but no time more so than in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. So whether you are baking for your honey or just baking for fun, we have chocolate cookies to inspire you!

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:

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Chickpea Tikka Masala #SundaySupper

Chickpea Tikka Masala is made with homemade Masala sauce, spinach, mushrooms and carrots and finished with coconut milk for a rich, slightly spicy vegan lunch!

Chickpea Tikka Masala

Mid-January is usually the time when meal preparation gets back into full swing. The holiday leftovers are gone (finally), and the routine is back to normal. Of course, I'm still trying to sleep off the holiday blahs, and while cooking meals for the week is still enjoyable, making sure they're balanced and healthy as well as quick and easy can be a challenge.

One of the options is, of course, to turn to convenience foods like pre-made sauces, grain dishes and entrees for a jump on dinner. Now, I have nothing against using well-made, jarred sauces on occasion - salt free tomato products (yes, including sauce), curry pastes and condiments like mustard are staples in our pantry. Canned beans are another thing we stock up on. But now that I have a pressure canner, I've taken pleasure in making my own pantry staples - yes, including beans. This way, I get the benefits of quick and easy convenience while controlling the quality and contents of what we're eating.

Tikka Masala Sauce

I wish I could take credit for the idea behind this dish, but that honour goes to Rebecca Lindamood from Foodie with Family. I received her book, Not Your Mama's Canning Book, for Christmas 2016 and last summer was able to cook up a few treats from it's pages including her canned beans and her
Tikka Masala Sauce. As I was using my garden produce, I used pencil hot and Thai chilies instead of the jalapeno she called for, and home roasted and pureed tomatoes. I canned up two pint jars at the time - the tomato harvest was pitiful - but it was good enough for the beginning of our winter blues.

With both chickpeas and sauce at the ready, it took moments to toss together a rich, spicy ragout perfect for spooning over long grain Basmati rice. It stashed in the fridge for a good week, and was even good cold - but when the weather is anything but tropical, a warm bowl of goodness truly hits the spot!

This week #SundaySupper is focused on healthy grain bowls - rice, quinoa, farro, whatever. From Tex-Mex to teriyaki, there's something for everyone!
Sunday Supper Movement

The 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.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Zippy Beet Catsup

This sweet, spicy and tangy dip tastes deceivingly like ketchup - but surprise! There are zero tomato products involved.

Zippy Beet Catsup

Let's face it - kids (and big kids) love ketchup. Even at my house - where every resident is over 25 - we have 3 bottles of it in the fridge. I use "my" low-sodium variety (which I added Louisiana hot sauce to, because) exclusively on sweet potato, butternut squash and skin-on Russett oven fries, while my often-visiting stepbrother piles his sriracha-laced variety on hamburgers. Then there's my sister, who as I've mentioned before is a bona fide ketchup addict who puts it on everything from steak (yes, even filet mignon) to fries to pasta (but not mac n' cheese... we both agree that's just wrong).

One thing kids are not generally fond of in their natural state is beets. Whether it's their garishly red colour, the slight earthiness or the fact that the thought of the root vegetable brings up memories of old ladies and sickly-sweet Harvard sauce, beets are a hard sell. I speak from experience - until I began growing my own heirlooms a few years ago, the only way you'd find me enjoying beets was in a chocolate cake. I still prefer raw, spiralized or shredded beets to roasted day to day, but I do have to admit their versatility is growing on me - especially when it comes to making condiments.

When I saw the original recipe for "beet ketchup" on Knead to Cook, I was skeptical - no way could this tomato-free spread taste like the fire-engine-red squeeze bottle stuff. You know what - I was right. It's not your commercial, smooth, hyper-sweetened tomato ketchup. It's richer, more deeply flavoured, and more complex. However, it still evokes that delicate sweet-tart balance we know and love, with a hint of spice for interest. Think of it as grown-up ketchup, or fancy "catsup" that would be at home on a dinner-party spread (or really good meatloaf!). It definitely felt at home on Wednesday night steak fries too.

My only regret? Not making more - this batch used up the last of the garden's haul from 2017. Only 10 months or so until next harvest!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Peanut Butter/Pumpkin And Applesauce Cookies for Dogs (Guest Post)

This guest post is provided by Greer Grenley, Rover.com community member. Rover is the nation's largest network of 5-star pet sitters and dog walkers.

Just like humans, dogs can have allergies to certain foods. Unfortunately, some dogs are allergic to common foods you find in many dog treats, like chicken, fish, and dairy.

Dogs show signs of allergic reactions that are easy to spot if you know what you’re looking for: itchy or oozing skin; red, irritated eyes; nasal discharge; coughing or sneezing; inflamed ears; and swollen paws.

Pups can develop allergies to their food if they eat the same thing every day for months or years. One key is to switch off the flavor of the food while sticking to the same brand so that their body maintains the correct diet without becoming as prone to allergic reactions. I feed my dogs Natural Balance Pet Food but try different proteins each month, switching off between chicken, bison, salmon, and duck.

Although there are some remedies for allergies, like medications and shampoo treatments, there are still plenty of treats dogs can enjoy even with a sensitive diet. You can bake your own tasty delights using alternative ingredients that are fun for you to make and fun for your dog to eat.

I used my dogs as taste-tasters for this recipe, and they approved. Funnily enough, they’re totally healthy for a human to eat too! You can use either peanut butter or pumpkin for this recipe. I tried a batch of each and the dogs liked them both, and while I haven’t met a dog that doesn’t like peanut butter, pumpkin has a gooey texture that held the biscuits together well. Plus, pumpkin is good for a dog’s digestive system and helps firm the stool. You can also use both ingredients in the same batch if that’s what you prefer.

(From left - right): Franny, Franklin, Walter, and George are all patiently waiting for a sample.

Peanut Butter/Pumpkin And Applesauce Cookies for Dogs
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup peanut butter or 1 ¼ cups pumpkin
1 cup unsweetened organic applesauce
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp coconut oil (Note: coconut oil is great for a dog’s coat!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients well.
  3. Knead dough in a bowl. If the dough is too loose and crumbly, add coconut oil by the tablespoon until you can form a dough.
  4. Shape the mixture into 2 inch compact balls and flatten.
  5. Place cookies on a baking sheet, approximately ½ inch apart.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes or until dry.
  7. Let cool and serve.
*I baked them until they were hard and dark in color, although you can try different textures. These cookies are best stored in the fridge.

I’m certain your dogs will find them delicious. Happy baking!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Glittering Cookie Wands

Made with vegan cream cheese, vanilla sugar, and a secret ingredient, these crisp sticks are a fantastic addition to a child's birthday party or the Harry Potter fan club table!

Glittering Cookie Wands

I grew up with the Harry Potter book series, falling in love with the characters and their antics over the years. The series holds a special sort of "magic" for me as a big sister and a teacher as well - while Beatrix Potter, Hans Christian Andersen and C.S. Lewis failed to get my little sis (and many of my past students) turning pages, the adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione opened their minds and hearts to reading for pleasure. As a result, it's nigh impossible to get my sister to put down a book today, and our shelves are thoroughly laden with reading material.

Since school, with all it's bake sales and birthday parties, is back in session after the winter break, I thought it would be fitting - and I daresay, cute -  to make some "magic wand" cookies for a bit of sparkle. While I may not be a huge fan of standard sugar cookies - for too sweet, dry and bland for my tastes - I do like those made with a touch of cream cheese. Cream cheese has long been a favourite cookie ingredient of mine, since it adds just a hint of tang and a tenderness you can't get otherwise. I found a good base recipe on Keepin' it Kind, which had not only cream cheese but cornmeal for a bit of extra texture and a touch of sweetness.

Since I was making long, skinny cookies that were more prone to breakage, I opted to swap out the vegan butter for non-hydrogenated shortening which made the dough a touch sturdier. I also used vanilla sugar instead of plain and white whole wheat flour for a touch of added nutrition. The dough freezes exceptionally well, and the batch size is perfect for a child's birthday party where cookie decorating is one of the activities (do people still have birthday parties at home anymore, with pizza and homemade cake? They should!). If you need to serve a crowd, say a pre-fan convention party, you can double, and even triple the recipe. Bust out the sprinkles (and the dark chocolate if you're feeling fancy) and get to making some cookie magic!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels #BreadBakers

Whether soft or hard baked, a great pretzel is deep golden with a generous kiss of salt!

Whether soft or hard baked, a great pretzel is deep golden with a generous kiss of salt! These were made by my home ec class today. Great job! #yummy #yum #vegetarian #bread #baking #cheapeats #cheap #yeast #salt #pretzels #food

I have always loved pretzels. I'll eat them in any form - waffled, stuffed, sourdough, twisted, knotted, alphabet and even goldfish. However, my all time favourite form of this deep golden bread is soft and pillowy, with a light crusting of salt. A butter dip is definitely a bonus, but not a necessity. I've made my own pretzels before - gluten free and gluten-full - but they were both hard varieties, and I wanted to try my hand at making my own carnival-worthy snacks.

Soft pretzel making is very similar to making bagels - a relatively firm bread dough is shaped by hand, boiled (or in this case, basted) with an enhanced water solution and baked to deep golden brown perfection. The major differences between the two are the shape and the waterbath the dough is exposed to. While bagels are treated with honey-or malt-enhanced water (making it mildly acidic), pretzels are in an alkaline, baking soda baste. This gives them their signature flavour and crust. While usually a dip in the alkali bath is called for, I made these pretzels with my grade 1-8 Home Ec students and in the interest of timeliness and cleanliness I opted to brush the baking soda water over the risen dough instead. Both methods work and taste delicious, although the brushing does yield less even browning.

As for toppings, salt is always a great enhancement for pretzels but it is by no means the be-all-end-all option. Sanding sugar and cinnamon would be great for a sweet option, or coarse pepper, or even everything bagel seasoning. The options are endless!

This month, the #BreadBakers are making pretzels! There is a great range of options this month, from stuffed to sweet to sourdough and even saffron! Be sure to check out all the options below and say hi!
#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, January 7, 2018

Why #SundaySupper Matters

If you've been following me for some time, you'll know that I am periodically part of an amazing blog event known as the Sunday Supper Movement. While family, work and general life the past year has kept me from participating as much as I wanted to, the spirit of coming together and sharing meals is still something I value and try to instill in my students.

While family meals don't have to be on Sunday - and certainly don't only have to be one day a week, the weekend is the perfect time to start the tradition. If you don't have to be out or at work, popping a chicken in to roast or making an oven-braised stew is easy, low-labour and makes the house smell wonderful, calling even the most wayward youth to the table. If staying home isn't on the agenda, why not try a crock pot meal, or whip up a casserole the night before that can be popped in the oven when you get home? Even leftovers have the power to bring together a family - I have fond memories of my parents and I sharing a mix of hot and fridge-cold day-old Chinese takeout after a busy day at work and school. While it didn't take any effort on our part, or create the feel-good aromas of Mom's Paella or my Citrus and Herb Roast Chicken, it was something we all loved and brought us together for an hour or so. 

So this week, although I'm not officially participating in the round up, I still encourage everyone who reads this to incorporate family meals - Sunday Suppers or otherwise - into your rotation. The reasons are vast and varied - some are listed below in the Sunday Supper Pledge, others you will discover on your own. Need inspiration? Check the Sunday Supper Movement website or search for #SundaySupper on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

I believe in Sunday Supper …
Because it brings my family together to share joys and challenges.
Because it starts as one day and soon becomes more.
Because it teaches us the importance of unplugging and being present.
Because it makes me closer to the ones I love.
Because it allows us to nourish each other in both body and mind.
Because it creates cherished memories and traditions of togetherness.
Because it celebrates good food and homemade meals.
Because it cements a legacy of strong families.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Red Velvet Protein Bites

Red Velvet Protein Bites are naturally coloured with heirloom #beets and packed with chocolate whey isolate for a powerful boost. Healthy truffles? Yes please!

Red Velvet Protein Bites

As the resident chocoholic around here, 'I'm always looking for ways to make my indulgence a little more virtuous. While the holiday season saw it's fair share of cookies, fudge and brownies, I do enjoy including something for my giftees to enjoy in the new year, when all the resolutions are in full force.

These bite-sized, truffle-like bonbons are definitely chocolatey, but they're also full of nutritional power. One bite is rich in vitamin A, iron, calcium and protein, with under 50 calories. The power comes from a combination of beets, pumpkin, chia seeds and protein powder, which blend together into a red-tinted paste that gives these treats their name. To boost the chocolate quotient I added a dash of cocoa powder, the bitterness of which accented the natural sweetness of the vegetables and coconut sugar. Finally, a roll in protein powder helps them keep their shape.

Speaking of keeping their shape, it is imperative that these go into the fridge for at least two hours before shaping, and that they stay cool thereafter. If you can't eat them all in a week or so, freeze them - they are delicious still icy or thawed overnight in the fridge.