Saturday, July 20, 2019

Ginger and Sesame Honey Cake

Ginger and Sesame Honey Cake is a perfect sweet for teatime, filled with a balance of nuttiness and floral notes.

Up until recently, I was fortunate to have a lovely co-worker who not only was an amazing artist (and art teacher) but had her own apiary on her property. Come Christmas and the end of the school year, she gave me pint jars of honey from her bees, which was delicious right out of the jar (and off the comb). However, that didn't stop me from stirring it into tea or drizzling on rice cakes, and when I had just the bottom of the jar left I whipped up this absolutely delicious, Asian-inspired cake with it.

This cake has the unmistakable flavour of honey (read: use a good, intense one) and it pairs beautifully with the nutty sesame seeds and sharp ginger. The yogurt, as well as the honey, will keep the cake impossibly moist. Although honey is about twice as sweet as sugar, it isn't cloying here thanks to it not being the only sweetener. Next time I make it I'd likely doll up the top with candied ginger curls for presentation's sake, but it really doesn't need it - this is the epitome of a snacking cake and is perfect with a cup of green tea in the afternoon, or if you're feeling really decadent, for breakfast! 

Friday, July 19, 2019

Wheat Hot Dog Buns

 Homemade hot dog buns are soft, fluffy and so easy to make, needing only one rise and no shaping!

Moving on from soup, I finally have a more or less seasonal post for you all! While I did not grow up
on homemade bread and buns, I do have fond memories of grilled hot dogs eaten sitting on our sailboat as a child, whether the hot dogs were in buns or chopped into Kraft Dinner was simply a matter of the heat outside. However, I felt then (and still do now) that a lot of the storebought buns are either malleable sponges (yes, I'm looking at you, Wonder Bread) or gritty, dry whole wheat logs posing as a healthier option. 

I set out to make a quick (1 1/2 hour) recipe for hot dog buns that is soft without being spongey and with enough whole wheat for flavour and texture without turning your mouth into the Sahara. After a few trial runs, I developed these buns (that are a perfect length for the "big franks" or sausages) that not only require just a single rise, but that need essentially no shaping either. The soy milk feeds the yeast and allows the bread to rise into magnificent buns, while the oil and agave (or honey) keeps them tender even after freezing them. Toasted, the richness of the whole wheat comes through and makes for a perfect accompaniment to your next grill out, or making sub sandwiches too! Unfortunately, you will need a scale to make this accurately, and if you're not feeding an army (or have limited freezer space amongst all that ice cream!) the recipe halves well as well.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Leeky Carrot and Rice Soup

Leek and Carrot Soup is full of spring flavour, and the abundance of veggies, lentils and whole grain rice makes it a healthy, not to mention delicious, lunch!

Yes, I know we are in the throes of Summer. However, as someone whose body temperature drops when she eats (don't ask, I don't get it either), soup is always a possibility when it comes to mealtimes. However, I also appreciate that heavy, hearty soups are really too much for July weather, so after a trip to the local farmer's market I (re)made this soup. I say re-made because I originally made (and photographed) this recipe last March, but never got around to posting it. Good thing too, because it allowed me to tweak it and the changes are reflected in the recipe below. The recipe is also easy to veganize, should you choose to do so, but for a more "cock a leekie" experience I suggest a rich chicken stock (I used homemade) and butter.

The simplicity of this soup really allows the vegetables and herbs to shine. In the height of Summer (if you have it in your garden) use fresh herbs with abandon (except oregano, which for some reason bitters the soup when fresh) and of course, the best veggies you can find. Since my garden hasn't quite exploded with produce yet, I used my farmer's market haul, and supplemented the mix with garlic scapes (from my fiance's garden) and my Egyptian Onion bulbs. Use what looks good and you'll be laughing!

P.S.: If you like your soup with a kick (like a certain blog writer... ahem), use chili oil (like my favourite) to saute and stir in a dash of Tabasco at the end!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Pineapple Drops

Pineapple juice makes this hard candy taste like honey, and with a tiny cube mold making lots is easy!

If you could believe it, I used to be deathly afraid of boiling sugar. Like my (still unresolved) fear of hot oil, I was burned by molten sugar syrup when I was younger, and avoidance seemed like the best tactic. Of course, now that I've been making and canning other splattery things like jam, I have developed more or less asbestos hands and while I can't say I've escaped unscathed I do know how to be a bit smarter about the substance! 

In possession of a can of pineapple juice (left over from stir fry night), I decided to see if I could somehow convert it into a candy. I had a feeling that gummies would be out due to their gelatin base, but I wondered if hard candy would work. Well, I can safely say it does - and while the finished candy tastes nothing like pineapple, it does taste like the most divine honey in solid form! It's a good thing I picked up a tiny silicone ice cube mould for this recipe, otherwise they would be taking up permanent residence around my waist!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Quick Marshmallow Fluff and Fluffernutter Fudge

Fluffernutter Fudge is a great use for unsweetened, natural peanut butter. A sprinkle of salt balances the sweetness. Gluten free and dairy free to boot!

Fluffernutter Fudge

My summers as a kid were always filled with campfires of some sort. First were the communal fire pits on Beausoleil Island, where all us boaters would rotate bringing wood and we'd gather with skewers, graham crackers and marshmallows. Being allowed to "play with fire" was arguably the coolest part of the summer, and when I was old enough to babysit I would occasionally buy my own bag of marshmallows so I didn't have to share!

Oddly enough, only my grandparents ever had mini marshmallows that I can recall. Even if we were making Krispie Squares, it was always the big ones because us kids could just grab the remaining ones for snacks. Only recently did I purchase a bag of them to make cookies, but after using what I needed, I still had a bunch left that were starting to do what mini mallows do - turn into sugary pebbles. Not really wanting to go the traditional route (and having no cereal), I came across a method for turning the marshmallows back into their "fluff" form - perfect for my favourite marshmallow application, fudge!

Marshmallow Fluff in my possession, I set about making a small (read: manageable to eat) pan of peanut butter fudge. Why peanut butter? Well, for one, it's rich and somewhat salty, which counteracts the overbearing sweetness of most marshmallow based fudge I've had. For another, it's inherently creamy, so small pieces satisfy (and it lasts longer!). This fudge is layered with peanut flavour too, thanks to the use of peanut flour in addition to the natural peanut butter (yes, natural worked here!). To offset any residual cloying sweetness, I sprinkled some flaky Kosher salt over the whole thing.

Fluffernutter Fudge

A tiny taste of the finished candy brought back waves of nostalgia for the treats of summer and fall fairs. Perfectly peanutty, just sweet enough, and melt-in-your-mouth good, I have no qualms about making it again - and if I can't find the Fluff (it's hit and miss around here) I can whip up my own!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Baklava Swirl Bread

This is no ordinary swirled loaf - the lusciousness in this whole grain bread is leftover filling from Nut Free Baklava plus an extra drizzle of honey for luck! The dough even gets an extra hint of decadence from orange flower water and toasted sesame oil.

Remember the filling from my delicious Nut-Free Baklava? Well, I had leftovers on my hands, and since our stash of bread was running low, I figured what better use than in a swirled bread? I don't often go "overboard" on the decadent loaves for mom, especially since that we're well into the short sleeve and shorts weather, but once in a while it serves as a nice treat! This bread is a heavy adaptation from the Cinnamon Swirl Bread on Pinch of Yum, which looked decadent and one I'm definitely going to make in the future!

Since I was making bread with a baklava-style swirl, I figured I would pull in some other Greek(ish) flavours with the dough. A dash of orange juice and orange flower water added a light fruity and floral note, while toasted sesame oil shone through with a nutty tone. Using yogurt instead of water kept the dough impossibly soft and tender, which was a great contrast with the crunchy bits in the filling. It's a good thing this recipe makes two big loaves, because my mom couldn't wait to dig in - they were barely room temperature by the time she cut into them!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Nut-Free Baklava

Yes, nut free baklava is possible! The filling for this decadent flaky pastry is a mix of nut free granola, sunflower seeds and buckwheat kernels pulsed with raw honey and spices, while the syrup is honey and sugar with a splash of rose and orange flower water. Rolled, rather than stacked phyllo ensures the filling stays put and slicing is easier too!

Baklava is a definite crowd pleaser - I honestly don't know a single person who truly abhors the sweet, sticky, flaky pastry once they've tried it! Since my grade 7/8 class at work was putting on Mamma Mia! as their school play, they asked if I could make the dessert option for their refreshment table. Of course, I agreed, and the subject of baklava came up. However, there was a big, glaring "BUT" in this plan. As per school policy, there could be no nuts involved.

Not to toot my own horn (okay, kinda to toot my own horn), this challenge didn't faze me at all. While the previous Home Economics teacher had mentioned that there was "no way" the dessert could be made without nuts, I have had previous experience in doing just that. I took the same principles and adapted them to a more traditional baklava application (involving the syrup component). To save on mess and make for a somewhat neater presentation, I rolled the sheets of filled phyllo instead of stacking them, which both ensured an even distribution of filling and an easier cutting job. The rolls also absorbed the syrup a little more thoroughly, creating bites of pastry that were sweet without being wet-wipe sticky.

Now, I will not say this is a "quick" dessert. I made it the morning before it needed to go into the school so it had a full 24 hours to absorb the syrup, but all told it took about 1 1/2 hours to put together from start to finish. Do make the syrup first - it needs to cool to room temperature and this way it stays out of the way! Any leftover filling and phyllo can be made into "muffin tin" baklava snails (my mom loved those as her "treat" and they also gave my fiance a chance to taste the dessert for the first time), and the filling can also be frozen and used as a mix-in for bread or cake filling. Make no mistake, the next time I get a chance, this is going to be back on the dessert table.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Lasagna Soup

This Lasagna Soup is a veggie filled delight for your stomach and tastebuds, and is vegetarian to boot! Enjoy the classic baked pasta taste without the fuss of layering.

I was always a sucker for my mom's lasagna. To this day, I have yet to find one that matches hers, and I actually despise most restaurant lasagna or storebought frozen stuff now. While I know how to make some pretty darn good stuff myself, I rarely do because of the time the assembly job takes. Coupled with the 30 degree (Celsius) heat outside, the oven is staying off!

That said, the family had a hankering for lasagna this week, so I came up with the next best thing - a (relatively) quick cooking Lasagna Soup! The tomato sauce-laced broth is full of all the veggies and noodles found in my mom's traditional lasagna, with a hint of cheese stirred in at the end for a little bit of creaminess and flavour. For protein, I relied on the broken remnants from a bag of TVP chunks, a staple in my pantry. Using the broken bits made them the perfect size for this application, and since they re-hydrate in the broth they helped thicken the mixture to a soupy stew consistency. From start to finish the pot of soup was ready in an hour, and the consensus was that it was as good at room temperature as it was hot from the pot. Since we're staring down a stretch of sunny, hot days and just cool enough nights where microwaving leftovers is more common than not, I have a feeling this recipe may be on rotation quite a bit!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Vegan Chocolate Protein Biscotti

These vegan biscotti are packed with protein from Happy Planet Clean Protein chocolate smoothie and a scoop of Nuzest chocolate protein. A handful of chocolate chips stud the oil free, brownie like dough for extra decadence.

    It's been a while for a lot of things - posting in general for one (that crazy life getting in the way), but also making and sharing one of my signature cookie styles - biscotti! As the summer gets ever closer (according to the calendar at least, outside may have other plans), most of the wonderful people who appreciate my baking are trying to slim down or at least maintain their figures for when the 47 sweaters come off.

    Luckily, I have a compromise, because a summer without sweets is absolutely unthinkable! For my biscotti loving bestie, I managed to transform a standard double-chocolate biscotti recipe into protein-enriched nibbles that can be packed for road trips or enjoyed as a post-workout reward. I am a huge fan of Nuzest's protein line as it serves as a meal replacement for days I don't want to look at food (the RA medications I'm on can make me nauseous) and it's free of all the stuff I can't eat (I'm looking at you, coconut oil!) while remaining vegan and maintaining a pure, rich chocolate taste. At 20 grams of protein per serving it's a great treat too! To up the chocolate flavour I poured in a hearty dose of a vegan chocolate protein smoothie as well. I had received the Happy Planet beverage to test but due to the coconut I couldn't partake, so baking it was! Even more chocolate via cocoa and two types of chips later and there was no guessing what flavour came through.

    Even without eggs, the dough was a dream to handle and sliced well. The whole grain flour added a hint of nuttiness that I thought would work well with the cocoa and according to the taste testers I was right! This also makes a relatively small batch of biscotti, because if you are anything like me cookies do not stand a chance in the household! Dunked in coffee or eaten on their own, they're a tasty way to indulge without blowing the whole diet.

    *Note: this is not a sponsored post. I just love Nuzest!

    Saturday, April 27, 2019

    Dozen Yolk Braided Bread

    This Dozen Yolk Braided Bread is sweetened with honey and made rich and tender with twelve egg yolks and a hint of soy milk (non traditional but tasty!). Whole wheat bread flour ups the nutrition and the flavour profile as well.

    After baking the delicious Angel Food Cake for my birthday, I was left with a lot of egg yolks. Seeing as how we already had enough cake to open a small bakery (between my cake, my sister's three-layer chocolate birthday cake and the vanilla cupcakes Mom always makes for special occasions), making pound cake or another dessert (like custard) wasn't practical. I spent an afternoon googling alternate uses, and soon I came across a recipe for Challah using eight yolks. That seemed like a good starting point, but I also had soy milk on hand that was about to turn, so I modified the Challah into a soft, rich braided bread sprinkled with sesame seeds and perfumed with orange zest, vanilla and honey.

    The recipe makes two huge loaves, which is great if you're my family who goes through bread like it's going out of style, and it freezes beautifully as well. Depending on the humidity and the type of flour you have on hand, you may need extra flour to get the dough come together - you want it tacky but not wet, and it should clear the sides of your mixing bowl. Once it was cool enough to slice (an agonizing wait for Mom) at least two pieces "disappeared" along with some homemade grape jam. The sweet, eggy flavour is primed for a fresh fruity Toast Topper, as well as a smear of butter. Since I've made the angel food cake once more, I have a feeling the freezer is about to get another round of this treat!

    Monday, April 8, 2019

    Gluten Free, Sugar Free Vanilla Bean Angel Food Cake

    Made my first birthday cake in 10 years - a Gluten Free, Sugar Free Vanilla Bean Angel Food Cake. Sweetened with a blend of monkfruit and stevia, its still light, fluffy and sweet. Perfect for topping with fresh fruit!

    Happy birthday to me! I typically have a blase attitude about my birthdays for a few reasons. Like most people, I'm usually working on the day itself, and if I'm not is often because it's Easter - a fact that my dad and sister also have to deal with (we're all super close date wise). Combined with the fact that birthday cake's heavy reliance on the two elements I don't digest well - fat and gluten - birthday cakes are also not really something I had to look forward to. However, that all changed this year, when I not only found a fat free and gluten free recipe that tasted fantastic, but a sugar free one too!

    I am a huge believer in taste coming to the forefront, and thankfully my history with baking gluten free served me well in preventing a cake that tasted like the stereotypical gluten free cardboard - especially in the absence of a ton of fat. For me, the secret lay in layers of vanilla - vanilla bean, vanilla extract and vanilla flavoured stevia, which made each bite perfumed with the flavour but not in an overwhelming or "fake" way. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to note that this angel food cake baked - and stayed - moister than "regular" angel food cake, even days later (it lasted a grand total of 4 days here before being demolished).

    That said, the batter is somewhat thicker than your standard angel food recipe, and the top of the pan will be somewhat bumpy... but since that becomes the bottom, nobody will see! Also, being sugar free, the cake will not brown very much, maintaining an angel white appearance. Again, appearance was trumped by taste here, especially when I drowned mine in melted cherry jam (my favourite). FH used homemade strawberry sauce and whipped cream to decorate his and proclaimed it a success, not even realizing it was gluten or sugar free. The dozen egg yolks left over? They became a decadent pair of braided loaves, which will appear on this blog soon!

    The best part of all this was that now, I have a cake option to enjoy and share with others no matter what the occasion - I've been asked to make it for Easter this year, and it is a top contender for my wedding cake a few years down the road too!

    Wednesday, March 27, 2019

    Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

    These Peanut Butter Cup Cookies are a trifecta of peanutty flavour - peanut butter in the batter, peanut butter cups mixed in and Reeses Pieces sprinkled on top! Beware who you make these for... They'll be back!

    I have always loved peanut butter, in any form. As a kid I would take to the jar of Kraft (smooth, always smooth!) with a spoon, smear it thickly on mom's Challah bread, or (my personal favourite) make sandwiches with honey or even corn syrup and enjoy with a tall glass of milk. However, every so often mom would break out the big guns and make peanut butter cookies. Studded with chocolate chips, hers melted away in your mouth and were scented ever so slightly with vanilla.

    When it came time to making cookies for my (now) fiance, I knew that peanut butter cookies were going to be number one because he waxed poetic about the grand combination of peanut butter and chocolate as well. I wanted a recipe that was peanut buttery but also chewy with almost a chocolate chipper texture. Once I stumbled onto the official Reese's website I knew I had hit the jackpot. A mixture of butter and peanut butter made for a rich cookie that still spread, and the brown sugar added extra chew. The only change I made was doubling the vanilla and swapping out the Reese's Pieces with chopped peanut butter cups. The secret to using the PB cups was freezing them post-chop, which kept them from falling apart during the folding process. A quick chill after mixing helps the dough keep from spreading too much, and allows the dry ingredients to fully hydrate. In the interest of texture, I did keep the original Reese's Pieces as decoration on the top, which not only added crunch but colour!

    In the end, the cookies have been devoured each and every time they've been made - and I will be making them for years to come! I can't wait to see how they hold up as ice cream sandwiches too... where's Summer?!

    Chopped up peanut butter cups can mean only one thing...  Peanut Butter Cup Cookies!

    Saturday, March 16, 2019

    Apple Whiskey (or Rum) Conserve - Toast Topper #83

    Apple Whiskey (or Rum) Raisin Conserve. Your morning toast never HAD it so good!

    Okay, so first things first - I cannot believe I didn't post a single Toast Topper in all of 2018! I really have no real excuse - I cooked and canned (albeit not as much as previous years) but I simply have lacked the time and energy to put together blog posts like I used to. As some of you know (if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram) 2018 was a pretty busy year for me - and things show no signs of slowing down! I'm now three terms away from graduating with my degree in Sociology and will be undertaking my Masters of Teaching in September of next year... then after all that I'm planning a wedding! So for those of you who have stayed with me throughout this shift, thanks! For those of you who are new to this blog, welcome and I hope you can find some inspiration in the 1958 posts I've written since 2007.

    The second thing I wanted to say is Happy St. Patty's Day! While it's unknown if I have any Irish in me at all (Grandma was adopted so she's a wild card) the fact remains that my ginger haired cousin and I have still been pegged as being from the Emerald Isle. Even if I'm not part leprechaun, I do enjoy the festivities around this holiday, especially the music and dancing! Of course, alcohol is a factor this time of year too (green beer, anyone?) but the Irish are also known for decent spirits, and after hearing my mom mention some Irish whiskey she had tried I remembered the apple whiskey I had bought last year but not opened. Why not give it a shot in a lovely, sticky-sweet preserve perfect for dolloping over butter on some hearty soda bread or scones?

    This conserve is originally from Best of Bridge Home Preserving, but (of course) I took several liberties when it came to specific ingredients. I kept the sugar ratio the same, but since I was out of brown sugar (yes, I'm a baking heathen) I dolloped in some molasses for flavour and a touch of honey too, because I love honey! I had no apple juice, but I did have an apple flavoured herbal tea, which when brewed triple strength tasted strikingly similar to apple juice, so in that went too. Apple whiskey made it's way in place of the rum and I nixed the walnuts because nobody here likes them. All in all, the mixture was rich, thick, spiced, and perfectly sweet, with just enough apple and raisin texture running through it. A perfect Toast Topper for St. Patty's Day if you ask me!

    Thursday, March 14, 2019

    Baked Farro Casserole

    Baked Farro Casserole is filled with chicken thighs, beet greens, tomatoes and dried hedgehog mushrooms. Perfect comfort food for the cold and dreary days,

    One of my favourite things to whip up for Mom's lunches during the week is the one-dish wonder. As a student, it simplifies the meal prep process since I get carbs, veggies and protein all in one without extra prep time, and for her it makes for easier eating between all her activities as a busy grandma! Casseroles are also a fantastic opportunity to use up all the leftover bits and pieces lying around the kitchen and in the freezer - so although I'm giving you a "recipe", it is truly more of a guideline than anything else.

    The original inspiration for this casserole came from Veganomicon via Diannes Vegan Kitchen and, if you couldn't already guess, was a vegan recipe that I picked because mom has recently discovered (and fallen in love with) farro and was looking for ways to utilize the earthy, healthy whole grain. However, we also had a couple chicken thighs sitting in the fridge from the weekend (after dinner invitees had to cancel) and a container of homemade chicken stock as well as homegrown beet greens in the freezer. Pawing through the pantry I found dried hedgehog mushrooms (my favourite kind) and a handful of red lentils. The fridge yielded a red pepper and a carrot that were looking somewhat sad, so they found their way in too. All the extra ingredients required extra liquid, so I used a second (smaller) can of tomatoes that I drained along with the undrained big can already called for.

    The whole process from the initial saute to when I lifted the dishes (I only had two shallow ones at the time) out of the oven smelled like heaven - herbs, veggies, roasting grains and chickeny aromas abounded. Even my year-old neice was intrigued, and while she didn't get a taste test this time around, I'm sure she'll eventually convince one of us to give her a bowl too!

    Sunday, February 24, 2019

    Cinna-Bomb Pound Cake

    Two swirls of cinnamonny goodness lace the yogurt pound cake, adding spicy richness and a touch of homey sweet flavour.

    Who doesn't like the sweet, spicy richness of a cinnamon roll, or the luxurious velvety texture of a pound cake? I, for one, cannot resist a cinnamon dessert, and when I found myself with a glut of eggs and yoghurt to use up I knew exactly the dessert to win over the hearts and stomachs of those around me. I'm a fan of loaf cakes in particular for taking into work, because they're easy to slice and serve and have a minimum of fuss and bother - wrapped in a napkin or tucked into a zip-top bag, they are easy snacking on-the-go, which as any teacher can tell you is a major component of the job description! 

    I wish I could take all the credit for this delicious recipe, but I have to admit my main inspiration came from another great blogger: Tiffany from Le Creme de la Crumb. Of course, I played around a little bit, upping the spices and doubling the wallop of both vanilla and cinnamon with vanilla flavoured coffee creamer and cinnamon chips in addition to vanilla yoghurt and ground cinnamon. I also tossed in barley flour for a delicate hint of nuttiness that played off all the richness going on in the cake. Once baked, I took one into work for the hungry masses and wrapped the other one in heavy foil and froze until we had company for dinner, where it was enjoyed alongside coffee and a scoop of ice cream. That said, I heard a rumour that the leftover slices made excellent breakfast fare when lightly toasted!

    Friday, February 1, 2019

    Apple Rhubarb Crumble Pie

    Apple Rhubarb Crumble Pie is sweet, tart and the perfect way to use up your garden's bounty.

    Apple Rhubarb Crumble Pie

    I don't know about you, but my freezer is always full of frozen produce. We have the standard peas and cauliflower, but I also have hoards of cherries, peaches, mixed berries and rhubarb at my disposal should jam, pies or crisps need to be made. Of course, having a rhubarb plant in the backyard means I have to get creative and use up the rhubarb that's there before the next season starts! Without any (decently priced) strawberries, the standard jam or pie was out of the question. However, I came across a new rhubarb pie that is perfect for the cooler weather and super simple to make!

    While this pie is already easy (hello, no top crust!) you can make it even easier with a press-in pie crust or even a storebought shell... I won't tell, promise! There are two keys to making this recipe sing - the honey / sugar syrup bath surrounding the rhubarb and apples, and the lightly spiced streusel with added apple flavour with the addition of apple juice. One caveat - you need to tent this one with foil. There is so much starch and sugar that the crumble will burn, and that's no fun! Letting the whole pie cool (as hard as it is) also lets all the pectins and starches do their work to set the filling, meaning beautiful slices. Whether you have a special occasion coming up (yes, even Valentines, or anti-Valentines Day!) or just want a delicious dessert for a weekend dinner, you can't go wrong with this.

    Plus, in the Spring when rhubarb begins to grow again, this pie works just as well! Just toss the rhubarb with the sugar and let stand for an hour before proceeding.

    Apple Rhubarb Crumble Pie

    Tuesday, January 22, 2019

    Gosh Darn Good Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

    These cookies, adapted from Daphna Rabinovitch, are filled with two types of chocolate, chopped toffee and a surprising hint of espresso to wake you up!

    I am a sucker for cookbooks, especially baking cookbooks. Admittedly, I will almost never follow a cookbook recipe verbatim - my passion for creativity is far too great - but I will often take the essential building blocks or essence of a recipe and tweak it to my own tastes and often what ingredients I have lying around. Sometimes, the results are delicious. Other times, the result is simply nothing short of fantastic.

    Such was the case with these cookies. A mix of chocolate, toffee, brown sugar and espresso powder, the original recipe came from one of the best baking books I've read in the past few years - Daphna Rabinovitch's The Baker in Me. I made the recipe almost exactly by the book the first time - shocking to even me - and the cookies were devoured by everyone, even non-coffee lovers. This past Christmas, though, I opted to jazz things up a little bit. I had run out of cake flour (and cornstarch, it turns out) so I swapped in a cup of oat flour for the missing amount. This both mimicked the texture of the cake flour and added a delicate layer of nuttiness that I loved, especially with so many sweet ingredients. To make the cookies extra chewy (and last longer before staling) I added a squeeze of honey to the creamed batter, along with extra vanilla because, vanilla. The last swap was due to ingredient availability - I only had bittersweet chocolate chips and whole chocolate chunks on hand, so I used them in place of the standard semisweet or milk variety, and with no Skor bars in sight regular old toffee bits sufficed. With my work schedule, the cookie dough hung out in the fridge for 4 days before baking, and I popped the scooped dough, on the sheets, into the freezer for 15-20 minutes before baking to prevent excess spread.

    Far and away, these are my favourite "unconventional" chocolate chip cookie. Sweet, with a touch of bitterness from the espresso, loaded with "bits" and chewy for days - what isn't there to love? Fair warning though - if you share these, share them only with people you want to stay around, because they'll never leave!

    The #CreativeCookieExchange is baking Our Favourite Cookies this month, and we’d love for you to join us! What cookie would you take with you on a desert island?

    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.

    Tuesday, January 8, 2019

    Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk

    Condensed Coconut Milk is thick, sweet and perfect for anything you might need a hit of sweetness for. Its gluten free and vegan too, with a delicate floral flavour. 

    Condensed Coconut Milk

    One of the things my mom loves more than anything else is key lime pie. If she had a choice for anything on her birthday, Mother's Day, any day... she would pick it hands down, particularly if it came attached to a trip to Florida. While it took me a while to become accustomed to the flavour, I have to admit I enjoy a good slice of the confection too, and I will occasionally make it (or a version of it, seeing as key limes are rare here).

    One of the main ingredients in key lime pie is condensed milk - thick, gooey and quite possibly the best substance outside of peanut butter and Nutella. Unfortunately for so many people, condensed milk is simply not an option due to dairy allergies or other dietary restrictions. Now, non-dairy sweetened condensed products do exist - including soy and coconut varieties like this one - but they are pricey and can contain additives and thickeners. My homemade version takes time, no question, but it's simple and the taste is amazing. I've used this condensed milk to make fudge, and Meyer lemon pie (similar to key lime) and it definitely holds its own texture wise. The taste is unmistakably coconutty, but not really overwhelming according to those who tasted it (I would but I'm allergic!).
    Whether you need it because you're dairy free, or you're just looking for an extra layer of flavour, I highly recommend giving this a try. Who knows, maybe your key lime pie will be next level this Summer! Oh Summer, where art thou?

    Monday, January 7, 2019

    Carrot, Sweet Potato and Lentil Potage

    Carrot, Sweet Potato and Lentil Potage gets a sweet-savoury boost from deep caramelized onions and a smoky spice from paprika and chipotle peppers. 

    Carrot, Sweet Potato and Lentil Potage

    Happy New Year everyone! I hope your holidays were relaxing and filled with joy - I know mine were certainly joyful if not so much relaxing! Now that we are a week into the January blahs (followed by the February boos), we are definitely turning our focus onto light-on-the-hips but still high on comfort foods. In the traditional spirit of lentils and carrots symbolizing money and gold, as well as the not so traditional spirit of good health, I cooked up a thick, hearty, spicy and slightly sweet potage of root vegetables and lentils. The base ingredients are accented and elevated with pops of herbs (especially wintery rosemary), smoky paprika and chipotle as well as rich, caramelized onions. The smells of the dish perfume your home for ages, from when the onions hit the oil to when all the flavours are blending together happily in the pot. Frequent taste tests - for quality control of course - are greatly encouraged.

    Lentil and split pea puree-based soups have always had a special place in my heart, as they remind me of the delicious soup I had in Montreal on my 18th birthday. The dinner theatre I went to is now long gone, replaced by condos (c'est la vie) but the memories live on. I dare say this is definitely more my speed than the generic lentil soup though... I need all the heat I can get in the blustery winter weather!

    What's your favourite January comfort food?