Friday, January 30, 2009

Just Stuff

I'm freely admitting being lazy when it comes to doing writeups for this blog lately. Actually, when doing anything lately. I cannot get motivated, and it is seriously cramping my style.

Oh, but I have kept baking. And shopping... what do you want to hear about first?

Shopping? Good, 'cause that's what you're getting!

Always on the lookout for good protein sources, I spotted a couple shake mixes the last time I was at the health food store and picked them up. I figured, heck - the mornings of 8:30 AM classes must mean that I could use something a bit more substantial than tea and dry cereal. I picked up two kinds to try:

Unfortunately, I can't really say anything good about either of these shakes. Drinking either of them was like sucking wet sand, and the taste... well, I guess it is called "green food" for a reason. I know there are people out there who do like these, but you know what... I'll stick to the green tea and dry (GF, of course) cereal for now, or green tea and GF toasty bread.

Toasty bread, you say? Gluten-free, you say??? Why, yes indeedy! I have been dabbling again in the realm of GF baking. The last thing I made completely GF was (if you recall) this cracker recipe... almost a year ago! That was, at the time, nothing but a passing flirt with a new type of cooking. Now, with gluten not so much of a possibility in my diet, I still wanted to be able to exist as a baker for myself! Of course, I can't make it easy... haha... that would be simple! My bread couldn't have gluten, eggs, dairy, nuts or oil in it. Which kind of knocked most of the packaged mixes out of the running. I did find one pre-fabbed bread... Ener-G's "Soft Corn" loaf... that looks promising, but since it's an online-order shindig for me I was pretty much contemplating rice paper rolls as a sandwich medium!

Then I found a most brilliant recipe at Gluten Free Day. The page also has some wicked-looking 'shroomage, which I am looking forward to attempting eventually! But oh, this bread... it intrigued me. No xanthan whatever, no guar or other gummy-like elements, only optional oil and vegan!! Happy days, my friends. I did modify the recipe, I won't lie, since I already had a ton of random, GF flours on hand in varying amounts that I wanted to try out first. Using the basic formula, I not only made this bread (which is fabulous, especially toasted under the broiler and topped with jam, and gets the stamp of approval from both mum and Andrew!) but I have plans for another, sweeter breakfast-style loaf in the works.

Now, if you aren't familiar with the elements of GF breads, you'll notice something about this loaf... it's kind of cratery looking. I knew it would do that going into the baking process, and was also prepared to pull out an inedible brick. Thankfully this was far from inedible - and though it's denser than say, Wonder bread, it's on par with your basic rye or steakhouse bread. I'm keeping this one around! Thanks, Emilia! I'm sending this bread off to YeastSpotting over at WildYeast this week too!

Gluten-Free Vegan Sandwich Loaf
Makes 14 slices
2/3 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup corn flour (not cornstarch or corn meal)
½ cup chickpea flour
½ cup de-fatted soy flour
1 tbsp tapioca flour
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp FiberRiffic (chicory fibre) powder [or try Hi-Maize... you can get it at King Arthur's website]
1 ¼ cups warm water
½ tsp sugar
1 tbsp dry active yeast

  1. Combine all the flours, salt and FiberRiffic in a large bowl, set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine warm water and sugar.
  3. Sprinkle the yeast overtop and let stand 10 minutes, until foamy.
  4. With the mixer running, begin adding dry mixture, beating until incorporated.
  5. Cover and allow to rest ½ hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 350F, grease a loaf pan.
  7. Pour batter into the pan. Cover and allow to rest 45 minutes.
  8. Bake 50 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 61.3
Total Fat: 0.6 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 3.1 mg
Total Carbs: 10.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.3 g
Protein: 3.5 g

Monday, January 26, 2009

By the Spanish Sea

There's something about the Mediterranean that makes me crave that atmosphere... maybe it's the sunlight, or the sea breeze, or the fact that while we're sitting at -10°C here in Toronto (with 10 feet of snow out back), Madrid is resting comfortably tonight at 9°C and nothing but a light misting of rain to complain about! Luckily for my grandparents, they don't have to dream much longer, since tomorrow they're boarding a plane for a nice, long trip to Spain! They also get to take a day-long jaunt to Tangiers, Morocco, and experience the open-air markets, music and perfumed air! I'd be full of jealousy if they weren't so deserving of the trip!

Since they would be away for my Grandma's birthday this February, we held a small Sunday dinner this weekend for her. Ironically, I was mostly in charge of planning the menu, regardless of the fact that since it was full of meat, wheat and olive oil - three things I most definitely cannot stomach - I wouldn't be partaking in the feast. Thank God for my mom's wonderful taste buds... she took my recipes and ran with them to create a beautiful meal that smelled just like a Greek gourmet festival!

This leg of lamb was cooked off the bone, unlike traditional methods, but the potential loss in flavour is more than made up for with a black olive and fresh oregano rub inside and out. The lemon cuts through any "gaminess", and if you get a chance to let it sit for an hour or two... all the better!

Mediterranean Leg of Lamb
Serves 6
4lb boneless leg of lamb
2 bunches fresh oregano, picked and chopped roughly
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup pitted black olives, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
  1. Combine oregano, garlic, lemon zest, olives and olive oil in a food processor to form a paste.
  2. Season lamb generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Rub inside and outside of lamb with paste, roll leg up and truss with butcher string.
  4. Preheat oven to 375. Pat any excess olive oil off the lamb leg.
  5. Grill the lamb leg until all sides have developed a rich, dark brown crust.
  6. Roast, basting occasionally with pan juices, about 1 ½ hours, or until thermometer inserted in thickest part of leg registers 150. Allow the lamb to rest, covered, for at least 10 minutes before carving.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 512.5
Total Fat: 26.6 g
Cholesterol: 193.4 mg
Sodium: 332.1 mg
Total Carbs: 2.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.7 g
Protein: 62.2 g

For a side dish, I mixed up an exotic blend of flavours to compliment the otherwise bland flavour profile of whole-wheat couscous. I used Spanish (of course!) blood oranges and saffron, added a Moroccan touch of cumin and cloves and spiked the whole thing with Canadian dried cranberries for a sweet and fruity pilaf my mom folded into steamed veggies and everyone enjoyed!

I'm passing this mini pasta dish off to Presto Pasta Nights this week, hosted by Erin at The Skinny Gourmet and created by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast!

Moroccan – Inspired Jewelled Couscous
Serves 6
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon fresh-grated ginger
pinch ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground saffron
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Juice and grated zest of one orange
1 ¾ cups vegetable broth
½ cup dried cranberries
1 ½ cups whole wheat couscous
  1. Bring cumin, ginger, cloves, saffron, salt, pepper, orange zest and juice and vegetable broth to a boil.
  2. Add the dried cranberries, reduce the heat and simmer 5 minutes.
  3. Return the mixture to a boil, stir in the couscous and remove from heat.
  4. Cover, and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 189.1
Total Fat: 1.4 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 276.6 mg
Total Carbs: 39.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.8 g
Protein: 5.8 g

Alas, the part of the menu I didn't get to take part in was the dessert... my element! Ah, well, next time!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Babies and Bananas

I have this theory that as the weeks go on in the school year, the days get shorter. Even though I had Monday morning and all of Wednesday off, it's been like a constant marathon these days.

I think part of it is that I am actually busy, of course... my second term of classes is full of assignments on the front end of things rather than having everything tacked on last minute, and my schedule is slightly awkward this time around too... but the major issue I seem to have is that I'm just purely scatter brained. I have the attention span of a goldfish (or as my sister says, a lemon), so I constantly have about forty things on the go and never get any of them done. Take tonight, for example. I have 14 IE windows open, the title page (only... that's all I have done!) of my Nutrition assignment, a Notepad file of "recipes-to-try", two e-mail clients and No Reservations playing on the TV. I can guarantee you that the movie will be mostly over before I get through any major backlog. Even in the kitchen I'm a total basket-case: I'm constantly underestimating the time things will take and half the time I don't write down the recipe (or remember to snap a photo). I cook out of sheer boredom and lack of creative expression over half the time, and I hope you all like bagels - one of the (many) recipe files I have on my laptop has about 10 different variations I want to try!!

But creativity is what brings me to you today, with a bag full of blackening bananas, a touch of leftover coconut and a box of bargain-priced Ganong chocolate creams in my (cold) little hands. At least this time I had a recipient for my brainwaves - one of my mom's co-workers recently became a proud papa, and the office was getting together for (another) surprise party. They do like surprise parties, don't they?? From what I was told, this bread went off like a shot, and considering it had huge chunks of all kinds of filled chocolate - coconut, caramel, almond and truffle - I'm not all that amazed!

Shake Your Bon-Bons Banana Bread
Serves 12
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup vanilla-flavoured syrup
1/4 cup water
1 tsp banana extract
2 large, over-ripe bananas, mashed
1 1/4 cups chopped chocolate bonbons
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease a loaf pan.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and coconut. Set aside.
  3. Cream together sugar and shortening.
  4. Add syrup, water and extract, beating well.
  5. Gently stir in flour, alternating with bananas, until just incorporated.
  6. Fold in chopped bonbons.
  7. Bake 50 minutes, cool 20 minutes in pan before turning out onto wire rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 274.2
Total Fat: 12.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 4.5 mg
Total Carbs: 40.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.4 g
Protein: 2.7 g

Hmm, well, the movie's about half over now (it had just started when I bean writing), but I haven't touched anything else on this machine. Or drank any of my tea... which is now cold. Ick. Cold tea... I don't reccommend it!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I'm going to preface this by saying that in no way is this recipe completely original... it's just been modified to my own preferences, because I can!

Who here's been to a certain steakhouse where, prior to recieving your slab of beef (or chicken, or fish, as the case may be) they set down a delicious, dark, sweet loaf of bread that's piping hot and calling out in desperation for a pat of butter? Show of hands?

Yeah. I thought so. I loved that place too!

It's funny, actually - one of the last places I remember eating dinner as a "normal", allergy-free patron was that steakhouse. I don't even want to think about the amount of stuff I ate that night that caused me inner turmoil - I (and poor Andrew, by proxy of me being up all night) paid for it dearly! I can live perfectly well without red meat, creamy sauces and even the deep-fried onions, but I have never have forgotten that wonderful, wonderful bread.

Of course, I have had the world of the internet at my fingertips, and with that the in-exhaustible lists of "copycat" recipe sites out there. Pretty much every single page I looked out for this recipe was exactly the same - like this one - so I decided to take it upon myself to change it up as I saw fit. In the process, not only did I make the pile o' carbs a tiny bit healthier (without the yummy whipped butter, though...) but I also got to use up some of the stuff lying in wait in the pantry! Besides, baking bread is a WAY better use of my time and energy than filling out accounting spreadsheets and summarizing articles, right?

Though the commercial-grade formula for this bread uses caramel colour, my home version uses (admittedly gratuitous amounts of) food colouring. Of course, if you don't like to use food colouring in your recipes, leave it out... the bread won't be nearly as dark but it will taste exactly the same!

Multigrain Molasses Bread
Serves 20
1/4 cup buckwheat honey
3 tbsp blackstrap molasses
1 tbsp melted, salted butter
1 small bottle (1/4 oz) green food colouring
1 small bottle (1/4 oz) red food colouring
1/2 cup warm (not hot) coffee
3/4 cup warm (not hot) water
2 cups flour
1 cup dark rye flour
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp vital wheat gluten
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 packet instant yeast
  1. In a bowl, stir together honey, molasses, butter, food colouring, coffee and water. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix flours, gluten, cocoa, salt and yeast.
  3. Pour in the liquids and stir in to form a slightly soft, sticky dough.
  4. Turn out onto a floured board and knead 10 minutes, adding only minimal flour (you want the dough to remain soft). Alternately, knead with a stand mixer for 7-8 minutes, until smooth.
  5. Place into an oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover and allow to rest 30 minutes.
  6. Divide dough in half and shape into two small (about 15-oz), oblong loaves.
  7. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, cover and allow to rise 1 hour.
  8. Preheat oven to 350F.
  9. Sprinkle loaves lightly with cornmeal and slash diagonally 3-4 times with a sharp knife.
  10. Bake 35 minutes, remove immediately to wire racks and cool completely.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 105.8
Total Fat: 1.0 g
Cholesterol: 1.5 mg
Sodium: 6.4 mg
Total Carbs: 22.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.8 g
Protein: 2.6 g

Check out this week's round-up of YeastSpotting over at WildYeast for more bready goodness!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Purple Pumpkin Pasta Pillows...

For Presto Pasta Nights!! Whew... I was wondering just how many "P" words I could get away with... hehe. No, don't adjust your monitors - this is really the colour of the pasta dough, courtesy of your friendly, neighbourhood beet!

Since I was playing around with the whole idea of pumpkin goodness, and had some ricotta cheese left over from making a certain (and sadly, maligned) cheesecake for New Year's, I whipped up a creamy, herbed mixture of the two, adding some extra Parmesan just because I could. I had, at the time, fanciful ideas of making low(er) carb ravioli for my dad, who was diagnosed as a pre-diabetic a while back and has to watch what he eats now. Not having the energy to deal with pasta dough after making the filling, though, I stuck it into a freezer bag and (consequently) the freezer - I reasoned that when I needed it all I had to do was thaw it in the bag, snip a corner and, voila! instant piping bag. I hate cleaning my piping bag out, so this was a nice bonus for me.

A couple days later, feeling much refreshed, I set about making the pasta dough. Thinking about the whole carb-angle, I opted to make up a white-flour free, high-protein dough concoction with a blend of soy, chickpea, whole wheat, and semolina flours, with some gluten powder for strength. I added in a touch of salt, some good, fruity olive oil, nixed the eggs and used the beet juice instead of water for no reason other than I had it and it was pretty!


Do not underestimate the power that is gluten. I obviously didn't add enough this time... I almost threw the whole batch of dough into the compost after it failed (repeatedly) to run properly through my machine. Finally, with gratuitous flour dusting and a heavy rolling pin, I beat enough of it into submission to make 100 respectable ravioli. That procedure alone took me 3 hours. I swear to God... it will be a while before I do the pasta thing again, at any rate (the family doesn't like it, apparently). When I do brave the trials of noodle-making again, I am staying far away from the GF kind. Props to everyone out there who can do it and has the patience for it (or the money for Xanthan gum!), but I don't have the energy or time.

On the yay for GF side of life... I've only been GF two days and already I am feeling SO much better. Which, in a way, sucks... I was really hoping not to have to have to cut out the gluteny-ness from my life, but hey - I'll take feeling better over eating bread! I'm still not at 100%, however, so I'm looking into getting a comprehensive allergen panel blood test for anything else that could be the culprit. I actually got that idea
from Karina... thanks for the heads up!

Be sure to take a look at Haalo's site, Cook (Almost) Anything, this Friday for the noodle-age hoedown!

Pumpkin - Filled Purple Pasta
Makes about 100 ravioli, 10 servings
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup soy flour
1 cup chickpea flour
2 tsp vital wheat gluten
1 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup beet juice
1 cup ricotta cheese
2/3 cup pureed pumpkin
2 tbsp fresh-grated Parmesan
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp sage
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
  1. In a large bowl, combine flours, gluten and salt.
  2. Stir in oil and beet juice with a fork to create a workable dough.
  3. Wrap in cling film and chill 2 hours.
  4. Meanwhile, in another bowl, beat ricotta, pumpkin and Parmesan together thoroughly.
  5. Add remaining ingredients and beat well to combine.
  6. Put filling into a Ziploc or piping bag and set into the fridge while rolling the pasta.
  7. On a well-floured surface, roll strips of dough out twice as wide as you want for the ravioli.
  8. Pipe small "dots" of the filling down one side of each strip.
  9. Fold dough over filling and seal around the dots, trimming excess dough away with a sharp knife.
  10. Place completed ravioli onto parchment-lined sheets and repeat with remaining dough and filling.
  11. Freeze sheets of pasta if not cooking immediately or cook in boiling salted water 5-7 minutes.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 235.8
Total Fat: 5.6 g
Cholesterol: 13.3 mg
Sodium: 96.3 mg
Total Carbs: 34.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.3 g
Protein: 13.0 g

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Rings n' Things

First things first, before I forget... check out yesterday's cookies!

They're long, long gone now of course, having been decimated by the office hordes (and the proud new Dad in the building!). But, the photo lives on. Can't you see those perfect edges??? Intense cookiage, my friends...

But now for today's carbo-loading. Yes, even though I am trying, yes TRYING, to be good and GF, I have an arsenal of wheat-filled creations still to share. Starting with these babies!

Yes, I did more bagels. And these aren't going to be the last ones coming from the kitchen either - I have way too many ideas for the basic recipe to try out! Both of these batches went into my mom's work-lunch stash, the exception being just one of the apple-walnut bagels (which fell out of it's ring-iness in the water bath) disappearing with Andrew this weekend. So far, every kind of bagel I've made has been given the thumbs-up. However, they've all been on the sweet side thus far - the next kind I hope to make (provided I find a willing taster) will be much more savoury, and spicy!

These apple-walnut bagels were basically only made to use up the dregs of the dried apples from last year's challah and the brioche, and when I was mixing them I was nervous as to how "loose" the dough seemed compared to my previous bagel capers. They rose beautifully, however, and formed chewy, golden rings that shaped well - only a few fell apart in the water (and that's easily avoided if you do the poke-a-hole-in-the-dough shaping method rather than the "snake" rolling method). Mom likes these with peanut butter, I'm betting apple butter or honey would be awesome too.

Apple - Walnut Bagels
Makes 10 3-oz bagels
1/3 cup dried apple pieces, diced
1 1/2 cups warm water, divided
1 pkg active dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp gluten flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  1. Placed the apple pieces in a bowl. Cover with boiling water and allow to sit 15 minutes. Drain well and set aside.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup warm water into a large bowl. Add the sugar and yeast and let stand 10 minutes.
  3. Whisk together flours, salt, brown sugar and cinnamon.
  4. Slowly begin adding the flour mixture to the proofed yeast, about 1/4 cup at a time.
  5. Mix in apples and nuts.
  6. Knead for 5-10 minutes.
  7. Place into a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and let rise 2 hours.
  8. Punch down the dough, divide into 10 balls and let rest, covered, 10 minutes.
  9. Shape dough balls into rings, cover and rest again for 35 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and preheat the oven to 375F.
  11. Place the bagels, two at a time, into the boiling water for 2 minutes.
  12. Drain well, and place on lined baking sheets.
  13. Bake for 30 minutes and cool on a rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 224.9
Total Fat: 2.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 6.3 mg
Total Carbs: 44.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.1 g
Protein: 7.5 g

Since I still have that good ol' sourdough starter kicking around, I wanted to see if it still had any sort of strength left to it and could independently raise a loaf (or batch of bagels, in this case). Now, I know that sourdough takes a good long while to rise at the best of times, but these babies stayed flat as pancakes for 6 hours before I finally threw them into the fridge overnight out of desperation. I figured that I would still try to bake them off, and even if they didn't rise I could have ring-shaped grissini. But...

Lo and behold the power of oven-spring! I didn't boil these (mostly because I swore they'd never "poof" anyways, so they lack the shine and chew of the real deal, but next time they're getting a bath... I promise!

Sourdough Bagels
Makes 12 3-oz bagels
4 cups flour
1 tbsp vital wheat gluten
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup refreshed sourdough starter, room temperature
1 tsp sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 tbsp brown sugar
  1. Whisk together flour, gluten and salt. Set aside.
  2. Combine starter, (white) sugar and warm water in a large bowl (preferably in a stand mixer).
  3. With the mixer on low, slowly begin adding the flour mixture until it's all incorporated and very stiff.
  4. Increase the mixer speed and knead 10 minutes.
  5. Cover and let relax for 5 minutes, then knead with the mixer for 10 minutes longer.
  6. Place in an oiled bowl, cover well and place in a warm place to rise until doubled - this can take up to 10 hours.
  7. Punch dough down, re-cover and allow to rest 30 minutes.
  8. Divide dough into 12 equal balls and shape into rings. Place them on greased or lined baking sheets.
  9. Cover and let rise 2-3 hours. (**At this point you can refrigerate the dough overnight and finish rising in the morning**)
  10. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  11. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the brown sugar.
  12. Place two of the risen bagels at a time into the boiling water and cook 1 minute on each side. Drain and place on the prepared baking sheets.
  13. Bake one sheet at a time for 20 minutes.
  14. Cool completely on wire racks.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 169.0
Total Fat: 0.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 1.3 mg
Total Carbs: 34.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.2 g
Protein: 5.6 g

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

That Chipits Cookie...

I'm still alive! I'm just being held captive by the new school term, that's all! And now Blogger is being a total B*TCH and not letting me upload photos... so I'm going to have to TELL you about my mom's and my adventures baking cookies for a surprise "new daddy" party they're holding at her work for one of the guys there.

Now, I know that there are a ton of chocolate chip cookie recipes floating around out there... and this one is really nothing special. Even though it's a treasured family recipe of ours, it's actually closer to that Friends cookie episode than a locked-away government file. Yes, dear readers, I must let you down with the announcement that my mom's famous cookies - the ones that try as I might, I cannot replicate - are from the back of the Chipits package, verbatim (except the nuts)! But really, why mess with a good thing... these are perfectly salty and sweet (table salt, thank you very much... no fleur de sel, kosher or sea stuff here!) and packed full of chocolate chips. In fact, the ones we made tonight even made use of the golden shortening listed in the "official" recipe. Normally, we just use the white stuff. What can I say? We're cheap. No butter for any of Mom's cookies - excepting the shortbreads at Christmas.

These fit perfectly into this month's SHF theme - Childhood Delights - the original event created by Canada's own Domestic Goddess and this time being hosted at Vampituity. I will have photos up (fingers crossed!) tomorrow of these delectable goodies, and if Flickr isn't against me too they'll be up there first!

"That Chipits Cookie"
Makes 50
1 cup golden shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tbsp salt
300 g CHIPITS® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  1. Heat oven to 375°F.
  2. In large bowl, beat shortening, brown sugar and granulated sugar until fluffy.
  3. Beat in eggs and vanilla until creamy.
  4. In medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt.
  5. Gradually blend into creamed mixture.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips.
  7. Drop from small spoon onto ungreased cookie sheet.
  8. Bake 10 minutes, until golden brown.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 109.4
Total Fat: 5.9 g
Cholesterol: 8.5 mg
Sodium: 5.0 mg
Total Carbs: 13.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.5 g
Protein: 1.0 g

On a completely different note, my skin and digestion problems have prompted one (of my many!) natural health practicioners to suggest I go wheat-and gluten-free for a test run and see if things improve. I know there are a ton of awesome GF bloggers out there - I just don't know how much resolve I'll have! Wheat free is fine... I do that most of the time... but GF is totally different!! I love oatmeal and my Kamut puffs, but I did buy some millet puffs to try out and I'm crossing my fingers that I don't have to add gluten to the huge list of stuff I can't eat! *Rant done*.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fridge Clearing

We have an odd complex in our household - certain members of the family (myself included) will determine one day that they simply must have an item in the fridge or pantry, so they rush out and buy up 3 or 4 of whatever it is. Then, after that moment's craving is satisfied, the remaining glut wastes away... for days, weeks and sadly sometimes years.

Yes, you read that right. Years. When we moved into our current house (and combined our families) my mother and I found several packets of Lipton SideKicks, Uncle Ben's Bistro Express rice, cookies and crackers that should have bid this world farewell long ago. Apparently, frugality over-rides general health and safety practices with my step-family, and the practice is still continuing - I was forbidden to toss the Sidekicks (that expired Feb 2006) just last week. And yes, it's still in our cupboard. With the rice (at the time of our move in Jan 2007) boasting an expiry date of only November 2006, my mom actually did prepare it - and mixed it in with regular boiled rice in an attempt to use it. They ate it - clearing their plates - and then determined that it tasted "odd". They blamed the combo of the flavoured and plain rice... I blame what had to be the slightly rancid oil.

Where was I again, pre-rant? Right. Leftovers. You'll recall (or you know, scoll down a couple posts) that I had already noticed (and partially dealt with) an almost-dead carton of eggnog that was in our fridge. I left the remainder waiting for either my mom or stepbrother Dan (the only two in the house that drink it) to finish off, so as not to leave them hanging mid-craving. Well, the cravings never came back for them, and the expiry date came and went... leaving the carton in the fridge.

Seeing as eggnog is full of potentially hazardous milk and eggs (albeit pasteurised), I wasn't going to hedge my bets that someone drinking the rest of it was going to walk away unscathed. So I did what I could to turn the disaster into a treat. I made more muffins.

In this case Andrew was the lucky recipient of these snacks - he asked for them after the last batch I made and I was happy to oblige, on a super-sized scale. And I manged to clear out not only the shared detritus in the icebox, but also some of my personal junk too (hence the random spoonful of pumpkin in the mix... leave it out if you have none handy).

Holiday Dregs Muffin-Cakes
Makes 8 jumbo muffins
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup chunky, unsweetened applesauce (try the roasted kind!)
1 tbsp pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 cup egg nog
1 egg
1/2 cup Thompson raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease or line 8 jumbo or 16 regular muffin cups.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, spice, baking powder and sugar.
  3. In another bowl mix applesauce, pumpkin, brown sugar, egg nog and egg until well combined.
  4. Add wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined.
  5. Fold in the raisins.
  6. Bake 17 minutes (for regular muffins) or 35 minutes for jumbo muffins.
  7. Turn out immediately and cool on a rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 243.5
Total Fat: 2.9 g
Cholesterol: 40.6 mg
Sodium: 32.3 mg
Total Carbs: 51.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.5 g
Protein: 6.0 g

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mmm... Lycopene

Since school begins again for me on Monday, I figured I had best get my brain away from the delights that are brioche, pie and cookies and turn to baking things that are slightly higher on the virtuosity scale. I also figured that if nothing else, what I made should at least be able to power my family and I through the work week, and that meant breakfasty goodness. My mom is a confirmed carb-a-holic (so I have to come by it honestly!) and loves a good bread with her lunch or sometimes as a mid-morning snack. In particular, she adores a hearty, whole grain bagel.

I had a project.

Now, bagel-making isn't all that hard or even that fancy... a fact that I was quite unaware of until I tried my hand at their creation! I had come across a delicious looking, sweet pumpkin bagel recipe over at Have Cake Will Travel a couple months ago and with a small surplus of the main ingredient lying wait in my freezer I made myself a plan. In the wake of all the previous kitchen disasters I had suffered recently, I was just a little hesitant to take on something so new and "scary", but a couple deep breaths later I fired up my trusty stand mixer and started kneading away.

The birth of the bagels was not without incident, however. The original recipe was written for a bread machine and used instant yeast - which I conveniently forgot in the process of copy/pasting the write-up to MS Word (I did, however, fix it for my copy here). Needless to say, I kind of forgot that 20 minutes does not a puffy bread make when regular yeast is concerned. Given that it was the second rise (I did give the dough 2 hours on it's first one, since our house is on the chilly side) I forged ahead with the shaping, boiling and baking. You can see that they came out looking all right indeed - just like bagels - and they passed the taste test with my mom with flying colours. Andrew (who ate his a couple days later) deemed them good but "bouncy" - he's said that of a few other things I've made and I'm not entirely sure what it means... bagels are supposed to be chewy so use your judgement (and slice and freeze any you don't scarf in a day or so).

With one day's worth of bagels (and the associated confidence) under my belt, I set about thinking about a new offering... Sun-Dried Tomato Bagels! They're Andrew's favourite kind, and our Timmy's doesn't carry them any more (nor does our Great Canadian Bagel) so he's been at a loss for some time. But how to make them? I didn't have any other real "basic" bagel recipes to go from (the pumpkin ones, due to the added puree, were too different from the plain dough kind) so I began searching. And searching.

Then I got smacked upside the head with an epiphany. Tomato paste! It's the same consistency as pumpkin puree... and I had some oven-dried tomatoes from this past summer to use up too! Simple swaps out and in and some chopped up tomatoes soaked in hot water later, and bagel batch #2 was in the works. I threw in black pepper, garlic and oregano too instead of the pumpkin pie spice from the other recipe. The dough smelled (and tasted!) like fresh pizza - a fact that drove our dog ever so slightly nuts, and also gave me another idea for a shredded cheese topping! I did half the batch with and half without, so that Andrew would have a choice when it came to eating them.

I'm also submitting these bagels to this month's The Heart of the Matter event, focusing on "Slimming Recipes" this time around. I know these are bagels, and therefore carby, but they are very low in fat, high fibre and fairly low calorie. Not to mention, these bagels are both high in lycopene, which "may significantly reduce the risk of heart disease... women with the highest levels of the antioxidant in their blood had a 34 per cent reduced risk of the disease compared to those with lower levels of the nutrient" (Nutraingredients).

So, if you made it down to this part of the post... congratulations!! Here are the recipes I used, and I do find it helpful to weigh the dough portions with these so you get even sizes (and even baking)... but I'm a little OCD that way. Eyeball it if you want.

Pumpkin-Spice Bagels
Makes 8 four-oz bagels
2/3 cups warm water, divided
3 tbsp brown sugar, divided
1 pkg dry active yeast
¾ cup pumpkin puree
3 cups whole wheat flour
4 tsp vital wheat gluten
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp honey
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine ¼ cup warm water, 2 tbsp of the brown sugar and the yeast. Let stand 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in remaining water and sugar, and pumpkin puree.
  3. Whisk together flour, gluten and spice, begin beating into the yeast mixture.
  4. Beat in salt. Dough will be very stiff.
  5. Knead 10 minutes with the mixer.
  6. Place in a clean, oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise 1 ½ hours or until doubled.
  7. Punch dough down, separate into 8 (4-oz) pieces.
  8. Let rest 10 minutes. Shape each piece into a ball, flatten slightly and use your fingers to poke a hole about 1 ½” wide in the middle. Rest, covered, for 30 minutes longer.
  9. Preheat oven to 400F, line 2 baking sheets with parchment or SilPat.
  10. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add honey.
  11. Place 2 bagels at a time into the water and let boil for 1 minute, flipping after 30 seconds.
  12. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and place on cookie sheet.
  13. Bake 20 minutes, one sheet at a time.
  14. Cool on a rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 185.9
Total Fat: 0.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 59.4 mg
Total Carbs: 39.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.8 g
Protein: 8.2 g

Two-Mato Bagels
Makes 8 (3.5-oz) bagels
15 sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), chopped roughly
3/4 cup boiling water
1 tbsp sugar
1 package dry active yeast
1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp vital wheat gluten
1 tsp fine salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
  1. Place the tomatoes in a small bowl, cover with boiling water.
  2. Let stand 15 minutes to soften. Drain, reserving all liquid.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the reserved tomato soaking liquid, sugar and yeast. Let stand 10 minutes, until foamy.
  4. Stir in tomato paste.
  5. Whisk together flours, gluten, salt, pepper, garlic and oregano, and begin beating into the yeast mixture about 1/4 cup at a time.
  6. Beat in soaked tomatoes. Dough will be very stiff.
  7. Knead 5-8 minutes with the mixer.
  8. Place in a clean, oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise 2 hours.
  9. Punch dough down and separate into 8 (3.5-oz) pieces.
  10. Let rest 10 minutes.
  11. Shape each piece into a ball, flatten slightly and use your fingers to poke a hole about 1 ½” wide in the middle.
  12. Rest, covered, for 45 minutes.
  13. Preheat oven to 400F, line 2 baking sheets with parchment or SilPat.
  14. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  15. Place 2 bagels at a time into the water and let boil for 1 minute, flipping after 30 seconds.
  16. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and place on cookie sheet.
  17. Bake 20 minutes, one sheet at a time.
  18. Cool on a rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 196.2
Total Fat: 1.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 173.6 mg
Total Carbs: 41.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.4 g
Protein: 8.3 g

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Learning to Breathe

Ah... the wonderful serenity and calm that follows the storm. Thank you to everyone who sent me their good wishes and kind comments on my last couple posts... I really appreciate it!

Of course, you were all right... things are getting better! I'm still being hung out to dry on the whole college registry front (ah, the joys of higher education!) but on the other hand, I did fix the "fail crust"! Actually, I didn't so much fix the crust as I beat it into submission with my food processor and some cocoa powder. When in doubt... add chocolate! The resulting mash was very close to what I know as a Nanaimo bar base - which worked beautifully for the filling I had envisioned for the pie and would probably have been darn good on it's own too!

I'm still waiting on the verdict from Andrew on the pie, as well as the two ramekins of leftover filling "mousse" that I froze into mini ice cream cups. I was pleased at how they looked, at any rate, and even if I had tasted them my verdict would be skewed... I hate coconut!! I do, however, adore making people happy, and I'm so glad that I was able to in whatever small ways I could over the last four years of our relationship. Through all of the hurdles the past years threw at us, and the good times with the bad, the joy I still get at the end of the day from knowing I'm loved by Andrew makes it all worth it!

Have the best day of your lives, everyone, and hug the ones you love!

"Squared" Coconut Pie
Serves 10
1 3/4 cups shredded sweetened coconut
1/4 cup salted butter, softened
2 tbsp flour (use rice or tapioca flour to keep this GF)
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 (4-serving size) package instant coconut cream pudding mix
1 1/2 cups whole milk, cold
1/2 tsp rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1 package Dream Whip topping mix (unprepared)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Using a food processor, combine coconut, butter, flour and cocoa to make a "mouldable", slightly sticky dough.
  3. Press into a greased pie plate.
  4. Bake 10 minutes, then place in freezer to chill completely.
  5. Meanwhile, beat together pudding mix and milk, and add extract if using.
  6. In another bowl, whip cold water, coconut extract and Dream Whip powder for 2 minutes until "stiff peaks" form.
  7. Fold Dream Whip into the pudding mixture gently but thoroughly.
  8. Spread pudding mixture in chilled crust, refrigerate a minimum of 3 hours to set before serving.
**Note: you will have about 1 1/3 cups of the filling left over if you made a traditional 9" pie. Either make another pie, eat it right out of the bowl, or (my favourite) put the filling into ramekins and freeze them for chilly coconut mousses!**

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 194.7
Total Fat: 11.2 g
Cholesterol: 15.9 mg
Sodium: 188.9 mg
Total Carbs: 22.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.1 g
Protein: 2.1 g

Monday, January 5, 2009

Drowning My Sorrows

Okay, so I figured I'd get all the major FAILS of January over and done with by the time the first week was out! In short, I'm an idiot. I don't know how I could have been so totally and completely blind, but apparently when I registered for my second term at school I picked the WRONG block of courses to enrol in. Now, my question is this - why would the registrar put a block of courses out there for a student to choose if they were the incorrect ones??? So now I get to play phone tag with the school officials and try to flip everything over to the proper programs. Jeez Louise, I thought it was supposed to be the classes that strung me out!

Times like these where the whole plane of existence is out of whack and seemingly against the flow are ones where one may be tempted to turn to the drink. Well, I turned to the drink in my very own way. Sticking my head into the fridge, I rummaged around and came up with a half-full 2L carton of egg nog that was one day from expiry. Shaking it up, I grabbed a glass and poured a frosty, full one.

Then I dumped it into a bowl of muffin batter.

Come on, you didn't think I'd drink that stuff, did you? I've never liked egg nog. That's my mom and Andrew's thing. Nah, I prefer to de-stress in a way that makes everyone elses waistlines expand... and that would be in the kitchen with the weapons known as ovens and mixing bowls.

These muffins are really in no way shape or form any good for those of you with New Years resolutions to lose weight - with egg nog (the real good cartoned stuff, too: full of sugar, rich milk and egg yolks of course!), a good dose of sugar and canola oil, they probably won't be on regular rotation anytime soon. I did try to make it a little less of a diet blunder and added dried cranberries and some spelt flour to the mix.

Many thanks to Qtpie at Grouprecipes for the base of this recipe... I can't wait to hear what the tasters think at Exxon! Next year I'll play with the idea of an orange glaze...

Cranberry Nog Muffins
Makes 12
1 cup flour
1 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tbsp baking powder
1 1/4 cups eggnog
1/3 cup oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup dried cranberries
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Line 12 muffin cups with liners, or grease.
  2. Combine flours, sugar, pie spice and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. Combine wet ingredients in a large bowl.
  4. Add dry ingredients and mix until just moistened. Fold in cranberries.
  5. Bake 15 minutes or until tests done.
  6. Remove immediately to wire racks and cool completely.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 210.3
Total Fat: 8.6 g
Cholesterol: 30.1 mg
Sodium: 27.8 mg
Total Carbs: 29.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.6 g
Protein: 4.0 g

Sunday, January 4, 2009

First Fail of the New Year

Lucky for you all, I don't have a recipe for today. I'm feeling a) lazy (mostly), b) tired and c) a little bit strung out from a rather loud and rowdy birthday party for my stepdad last night.

I attempted to make a coconut pie crust for a cream pie that I had planned as an anniversary gift for Andrew (the big day is Wednesday... it's been 4 years!). While it probably tastes decent, the majority of the shreds sunk onto the bottom of the dish and the thin layer around the edges crisped a little too much. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I guess that this failure was a wee bit of a fitting outcome from today though - I won't say any more (other than it's nothing illegal), but he's not too thrilled with me at the moment.

On a lighter note, check out the most awesome pyjama set I picked up from Bluenotes yesterday. Yay for Boxing Week (month??) sales!!

Friday, January 2, 2009

A New Standard

Uh oh. I think I've created a new monster, and it's still in my house! Two thirds of these new fruit and nut bar "cakes" may be wrapped up tight in Cling Wrap and foil, but they still call out. I guess this is what happens when you create something, maybe just out of boredom or to use up leftover ingredients (guilty!) and it turns out magnificently. Andrew gave into the pleas of the pan (even with a stomach bursting with sushi from our New Year's Eve dinner) and actually hovered over my shoulder as I was cutting them.

"I'll have one tomorrow, or maybe closer to midnight."

Blink once, full pan, blink twice - two squares gone!

"These are my favourite thing you've ever baked me, Sar" (through a full mouth and "yummy sounds"), "they're better than good.". This is high praise anyways... but he doesn't have much of a sweet tooth so I definitely know when I've hit on a winner!

Well, okay honey, if you really mean that - they're easier to make than your 21st birthday cake and cheaper than cheesecake, at any rate!

Like I said, these came about from a desire to use up some very black bananas, sparked by a blog post that I can no longer find and at any rate heavily modified! In addition to the ingredients I have in my "official" recipe, I figured I would toss in some leftover walnuts and raisins from our Christmas morning brioche. The honey has such a rich sweetness that not much is needed and the bars bake up thin and chewy... though if you're looking for cakey bars put the batter in a 9" pan and play with the baking time a bit.

Honey - Banana Bars
Makes 24
1 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt
½ cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
¼ cup honey
1/3 cup skim milk
1/2 tbsp vanilla
3 large over-ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup each Thompson raisins and chopped walnuts (optional - add 17 calories and 1g fat to each serving if using)

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Grease and flour a 9×13” pan.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
  4. Cream together the butter and brown sugar.
  5. Beat in honey, milk, vanilla and mashed bananas.
  6. Gently mix in the dry ingredients.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 100.3
Total Fat: 4.0 g
Cholesterol: 10.2 mg
Sodium: 30.5 mg
Total Carbs: 15.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.6 g
Protein: 1.1 g

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Sour(Dough) Start to the Year

Happy New Year, everyone!! Hopefully nobody is coping with too much of a rough morning after last night's festivities... I myself had a delicious sushi dinner with Andrew followed by a channel-surfing / DVD fest for my party. Yeah, that's about as festive as I get these days... but with our anniversary coming up in just a week we'll have another day of revelry in store.

I can't claim to be a pancake master... that honour goes to my dad and our old, propane-driven Coleman stove on a damp Summer morning. However, I do love cooking breakfasts for Andrew and my sister when I can. This morning I was in the mood for taking requests and since my sister was at a friends place Andrew was the lucky (?) customer! Having just run out of my stash of multigrain pancake mix (yes, the horror of the mix rears it's ugly head... so be it!) and with a need to refresh the good ol' sourdough starter (I can't believe I've kept it alive for 7 months - sheesh, my houseplants don't usually last that long!), I delved into one of my mom's old bread cookbooks and came up with this recipe.

Well, sort of this recipe. I cut down the sugar (from 1 1/2 tbsp) and the fat (from 1 tbsp melted lard) to a more manageable 2 tsp and 1 tsp, respectively. I also swapped a healthier canola oil for the lard (and let's face it, lard is just icky). Since my starter is a medley (or mutt, if you will) of flours, I just used "whole wheat" as a baseline in my calculations. My blend is currently about 50% whole wheat, 25% all-purpose and 25% rye flour, though it changes every time I refresh it based on what falls on me when I open my pantry doors.

Though Andrew likes his pancakes plain (or with a small amount of butter), I was always a sweet - toothed gal. For me, it was maple syrup (when we could get it cheap), and lots of it, on my hotcakes. Slightly more embarassing is that off maple season, you would find me smothering my (Aunt Jemima-mix) pancakes and (home-made) waffles with not table syrup but golden corn syrup. I ate peanut butter sandwiches with it too, and drenched (otherwise dry) pieces of toast in it. Sugar rush, anyone??

Superb Sourdough Pancakes
Makes enough for one hungry person or two lesser appetites
1 cup whole-wheat sourdough starter
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 tsp canola oil
  1. Heat a griddle over medium heat.
  2. In a bowl or large measuring cup, combine all the ingredients, mixing gently.
  3. Grease the griddle and ladle 3-4 dollops into it.
  4. When the batter has air holes peaking through, flip the cakes over.
  5. When the steam is mostly gone, they should be ready.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 350.2
Total Fat: 10.6 g
Cholesterol: 212.5 mg
Sodium: 66.0 mg
Total Carbs: 52.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 7.3 g
Protein: 14.5 g