Friday, July 3, 2020

Tiny Batch Chocoholic Cookies

Craving chocolate but your diet can't stand a dozen cookies lying around? This recipe makes 3 palm-sized cookies packed with chocolate and studded with Smarties (or M&Ms if you arent fortunate enough to have Smarties). Baked until just set and still soft, it is a sweet pick me up perfect any day.

The women in my family are a collection of chocoholics. Even days like today, where it's 37°C (98.6°F) outside, I can be found sipping a hot chocolate in the evenings. My mom adds spoonfuls of cocoa and a sprinkle of dark chocolate to her yogurt in the morning, while my sister is partial to chocolate baked goods (especially brownies). However, we are picky about the cocoa we use in uncooked form - the milder Dutch processed type, while still bitter, doesn't have the same sour note as the natural kind, making it more palatable.

Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men disappeared when the pandemic hit - along with flour, yeast, eggs and - yes - our beloved cocoa powder. Desperate, we bought a small tin of the natural kind, but we lasted a whopping two days before we gave up and bulk purchased our usual kind. The tin was given to me to play with, so I looked up a handful of treats to make with it (including these cookies and these croissants). That said, even my relatively active family isn't immune to the "quarantine 15", so baked goods must be minimal in quantity (well, at least until N or D come by, then anything is fair game).

Enter these beauties. Now, I am not going to classify these as "healthy" in any way, but they are just what the doctor ordered in terms of comfort food. Yes, these are sheer decadence in the palm of your hand, and while the cookies may be large - as in palm-sized - there are only three of them so even if you feel the need to polish off an entire batch, you've still only eaten three! The batch size, coupled with the touch of antioxidants from the cocoa and fibre from the white whole wheat and chia seeds, definitely makes these an "okay for summer" treat in my books. If you really feel the summer heat, I'm not not saying that you could make 6 smaller ones and sandwich ice cream (or frozen yogurt) in between.... nope, not my idea at all!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Vegan Red Beans and Rice

Vegan Red Beans and Rice are spicy (but not hot unless you want it that way), hearty and healthy - a perfect meal in a bowl you can make with hardy vegetables and pantry ingredients that feeds a crowd, or you for a week if you're stuck at home!

I have a soft spot for Cajun-style cuisine. Around here, it's mostly "white bread" country, as my city historically played host to blue collar automotive workers looking for cheap, hearty and simple fare. There is absolutely a place for it on the menu - N and I used to frequent a local "greasy spoon" diner before the virus hit - but given the choice I will almost always go for complex and spicy flavours. Since hitting up a House of Blues (where I have had the best jambalaya of my life so far) is out of the question, as is a trip to NOLA, I am content to make my own version at home - with a vegan twist.

Interestingly enough, this batch of comfort food only really came about because I was doing my quarterly pantry clean out and came across a bag of dried kidney beans from when I made minestrone ages ago. I always have TVP chunks and liquid smoke on hand, as well as some kind of rice, so I started the beans soaking while I looked up a red beans and rice recipe I could adapt. A few Google searches and some cobbling together later and I had a working plan.

In order to infuse the smoky flavour throughout the starchy beans, I both soaked and cooked the dry legumes with water spiked with liquid smoke, which I also added to the water the TVP chunks hydrated in. It is worth noting I am not a fan of the pickled pork flavour in traditional beans and rice so I skipped any vinegar, but if you enjoy it a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar would suffice. The rest of the spice flavour was layered into the bulk of the stew, balanced by the hearty vegetables and plain rice. The resulting mixture left just enough broth to spoon over each serving, which also soaked in to the leftovers we refrigerated overnight. Yes, like most stews and soups, this is truly a dish that benefits from patience (and a lot of it). On that note, I also beg of you to not use canned beans here - they will turn mushy and not yield the same depth of flavour from the smoke-soaked and cooked ones. If you can find a bag of small red beans at the store, use those instead - they are definitely better than kidneys in my opinion, but again, use what you have!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Cinnamon Spice Cookies with Goldschläger Icing

It's never out of season for gingerbread when it is this perfect! These cookies are packed with spices and laced with Goldschläger for an extra cinnamony kick. Topped with a simple powdered sugar icing and some silver sparkles its enough to make you feel like royalty, even if its just Wednesday night in your PJs!

Happy Canada Day to all my Canadian readers! Like pretty much every holiday this year, my country's 153rd birthday is passing with relatively little fanfare - even our neighbours who usually go all out with fireworks aren't planning anything. In addition to Canada Day, today also marks my blog's birthday - a whopping 13 years old! I still can't believe I've been documenting my cooking adventures for that long, and this blog has followed me through a whole mess of life journeys - five rounds of schooling, multiple jobs, relationships, losses of family and pets and multiple medical segues.

I want to just take a moment, before diving into my celebratory recipe (from our provincial liquor store) to thank everyone who has supported me over these years, including all the sponsors who gave me a chance, the various publishers who collaborated with me, my family, friends and the blogger community at large. You have all helped me become the cook I am today, and while I may not be the most regular writer, being part of this community of like-minded foodies showed me I could belong somewhere. I plan to keep this bad boy (or girl) going for as long as I can, especially now that my team of taste-testers has grown to include both N and my sister's boyfriend D.

Moving on to why most of you are here - these cookies! While I admit they are not your traditional "summer" fare, around here cookies are always welcome - and with gatherings beginning to open up again, we always have some sort of treat on hand. Keeping in the celebratory theme, I dipped into the (often forgotten) liquor cabinet to make these, based on a Courvoisier gingerbread recipe I had clipped out of the LCBO magazine at Christmastime and never got around to making it. Instead of the brandy, I opted for the opulent, spicy Goldschläger, which infused the cookies with a heady dose of cinnamon and helped the cookies crisp (as the alcohol evaporates faster than water). Mixing the dough brought back memories of both the holidays as well as my whole debacle building that castle three years ago (never again) - though if you wanted to build a structure with this dough you most certainly could.

The cookies smelled fantastic and were a breeze to whip up (hello, no waiting for butter to soften!) but looked a little plain and brown - not bad for an everyday tea or snack break, but not nearly enough for a celebration! So, while the cookies cooled, I set about making a simple icing with one important twist - another dose of Goldschläger. The alcohol served two purposes here - one, it allowed the icing to harden faster, given the evaporation of alcohol, and two, the little gold flakes in the liquid added an extra touch of sparkle to the icing. To gild  the lily, I topped the iced cookies with gold and silver sparkle sprinkles, though it's 100% optional. After the icing set, the cookies could be stacked and stored in an airtight container, although they lasted about three days here due to some hungry ghosts sneaking into the cookie jar!

Happy Canada Day, Happy (almost) 4th of July, and happy end to the first half of 2020. Fingers crossed that everyone stays safe, happy, and well this summer, and thanks again for the support all this time!