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?