Monday, November 30, 2009

A Monster [Cookie] Destroyed My Kitchen!

- or, part of it, anyway.

Now don't look at me with those "oh my God you still have Halloween candy sitting around your house" eyes. No, no, this would be a prime example of be making a valiant attempt to catch up on writing about the baking I did in between work sessions, when sitting at the computer was so not what was on the priority list! These gigantic (think full-hand size, including fingers), thick and chewy discs of deliciousness were baked shortly after it became painfully clear that there really were no more kids coming around for Halloween this year! Of course, that means that it was about the second week of November - God only knows why my stepfather thought he could pawn off half-full boxes of chocolate and chips at the office - before I could act on my recipe-planning whim. It wasn't really a bad thing, though, since it did force me to plug in some more hours on schoolwork, but finally I needed the break!

I tore into the abandoned box and came up with a bucket of the good, fun-sized swag: four bags of plain Ruffles, 8 Aero bars and ten tiny boxes of Smarties! Of course unwrapping them left a pile of garbage big enough to alert GreenPeace representatives all over the province, but they were already made, packaged, shipped and sold... I don't think there was any chance of really reducing a carbon footprint. Plus, there were cookies to think of. The whole assortment in the white bowl, with slightly crushed, salty chips on the bottom and super colourful chocolates on top, looked so pretty I had to take a photo! Then I hauled out the flours, flax and sugar and got down to business.

I guess you could say I did turn into the monster that destroyed my kitchen. To me, the only way I can reliably blow off steam is to whip up a batch of whatever suits my fancy! Some days it's bread, others it's muffins or cookies, and I don't usually seem to make the same thing twice. I guess I should label it something like "creative-overload ADD", but then I'd probably get to add yet another psychological modifying prescription to my roster! Nah, I think I'll just stick with calling it "baker's brain", or maybe "blogger's boredom"!

It's funny to think that the "healthy" modifications I made to this cookie dough recipe (and I am so sorry but I can't remember the initial source!) were all done without thought, but really turned the end product into something better than your standard cookie! The ground flaxseed and twelve grain flour created a nutty and semi-crisp base that wasn't sweet enough to overpower the chocolate but not salty enough to make you forget the potato chips either. I'm sure that if you made smaller dough balls and baked them for the same amount of time you would come up with equally tasty, crunchier results - but as big and soft as they were my dad had no complaints!

Really, what better way to kick off this year's edition of Eat Christmas Cookies - hosted as always by the wonderful FoodBlogga! We're in year 3, can you believe it? I'm proud to say that I've been able to be a part of every round up so far, so lets keep it going! If you want to see the offerings from previous editions, you can find year one here and year two here.

Monster Mash Cookies
Makes 12 giant or 24 "normal" cookies
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup  granulated sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
1 egg
1 tbsp vanilla
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
3 tbsp hot water
1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup 12-grain (or whole wheat) flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
64 grams (about 4 "fun-size" bags) plain potato chips, lightly crushed
48 grams (8 "fun-size" bars) plain milk chocolate, broken into chunks
140 grams (10 "fun-size" boxes) Smarties or M&M's chocolate
  1. Preheat oven to 375F, line two large baking sheets with parchment or silicone.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sugars, oil, egg and vanilla.
  3. In a small dish or cup whisk together flaxseed and hot water, stir into sugar mixture.
  4. In another bowl whisk together flours, baking soda and salt.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir gently to just combine.
  6. Fold in the potato chips and chocolates.
  7. Portion out large dollops or balls of dough onto the sheets.
  8. Bake for 13 minutes (chewy jumbo cookies) or 15 minutes (more "toll-house crisp" style jumbos).
  9. Cool completely on the sheets.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 356.4
Total Fat: 17.6 g
Cholesterol: 19.8 mg
Sodium: 51.2 mg
Total Carbs: 47.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.7 g
Protein: 4.4 g

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bites of Heaven

I think maybe, just maybe, I can taste the first sweet hints of a stress-free future. Well, school stress-free, anyway. It's taken me three weeks of sequestering myself in my room, breaking pens and worst of all not baking, but exam schedules are out and to me that only means one thing - heaven. I don't know another student that actually looks forward to writing their finals, but considering next semester is my last one in the hell hole learning apex of my college - and half of it is on co-op placement - it's almost like being done! At least the new year will (hopefully) bring the ax down on the infernal group work projects in class. Working in a team at work I can do... when it comes to classes where everyone knows the workload is nothing but busy work, though, and three quarters of them don't pull any weight at all... well, it's been interesting!

I know I'm not in any position to complain about the workload this year. I mean, really - I asked for it when I was bored, and thinking about it, we students pay for the privilege of being strung out for eight months of the year! Go figure, right?

Oh well. Christmas is almost here again with all it's baking, buying and sharing - along with a certain event over at FoodBlogga that I must get my butt in gear for! For now, though, I leave you wth a different event entry: A loaf of bread slated for Yeast Spotting! It's incredibly tender thanks to the bananas, honey and milk I mixed in, but not really all that much of a sweet bread until you add the toffee bits! Even with that little touch of decadence a slice is still pretty good for you, with whole wheat, extra bran and oatmeal for fibre and a punch of soy flour for protein. It's a good thing it makes two loaves - my mom can't get enough of it and loves that it keeps her full and her sweet tooth in check.

Bite Of Heaven Bread
Makes about 32 slices, 2 loaves
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup de-fatted soy flour
1 tbsp gluten flour
1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup wheat bran
1/2 tsp salt
2 packets instant yeast
1 cup 1% milk, warmed
1/4 cup honey, warmed
1 tbsp vanilla
3 large bananas, mashed
1 tbsp butter, melted
2/3 cup Skor toffee bits
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flours, oats, bran, salt and yeast.
  2. Add the milk and honey, mixing well with the dough hook to moisten the dough.
  3. Add the vanilla, bananas and butter and mix for 12 minutes, until a very soft dough forms (you won't be able to knead it, it's more of a very thick batter).
  4. Add the toffee pieces and mix one minute further.
  5. Scrape into an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rest 30 minutes.
  6. Stir / punch dough down, then re-cover and allow to rest another 30 minutes.
  7. Stir / punch dough down again, and divide between two greased loaf pans.
  8. Cover and allow to rise 1 hour.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350F with the rack in the bottom position.
  10. Bake loaves for 30 minutes.
  11. Turn immediately out of pans and cool completely on a rack before slicing.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 90.5
Total Fat: 2.3 g
Cholesterol: 4.6 mg
Sodium: 51.5 mg
Total Carbs: 15.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.5 g
Protein: 2.9 g

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Sometimes, there seems to be nothing but impossible tasks in front of us. There's never enough time in the day, money in the wallet, gas in the car or water in the kettle when we need it, which seems like constantly! However, in the spirit of the Thanksgiving festivities and underlying meaning to the celebration recently held by my southern (i.e. American) neighbours, I'm trying my best to think only of the possibilities ahead. Like what a little (or a lot) of flour and sugar can do for morale - or the sheer amazing property that Nutella posesses to make absolutely everything it touches taste wonderful!

This recipe for dense, chewy, banana and Nutella filled bars was actually inspired by another banana bar recipe I'd made almost a year ago. Given that the basic recipe was so well recieved, I figured why not go all out and throw some Nutella in there instead of the butter, and add a touch of soy flour for nutrition too? The resulting bars were almost like fudge in consistency without being wet, and the combination of hazelnuts, chocolate and banana really worked well. If anything, I think I would have added more Nutella, and really made it a showstopper for the Nutella Challenge this month at Bell'Alimento. But oh well - it's yet another possibility!!

Thanks to everyone both "in reality" and on Twitter for listening to my rants and tears over the past few weeks. I love you all and your kindness really matters to me!

Banana Rocher Bars
Makes 16
1 cup flour
1/2 cup de-fatted soy flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup Nutella
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 bananas, mashed well
1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup 1% milk
1 tbsp vanilla
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F, grease a 9x13" pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl beat together Nutella and brown sugar.
  4. Add bananas and yogurt, beating well.
  5. Add half the dry mixture to the bowl, followed by the milk and vanilla and the final half of the dry mixture, stirring to just combine in between additions.
  6. Scrape into the pan, smoothing the top.
  7. Bake 20 minutes, then cool in the pan 15 minutes before turning out onto a rack, removing the paper and cooling completely.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 137.3
Total Fat: 3.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.5 mg
Sodium: 12.0 mg
Total Carbs: 25.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.9 g
Protein: 4.0 g

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Californian Zin and a Peach Tart

I honestly don't know what gives White Zinfandel the bad rap it's been slapped with, because I can't think of anything particularly negative to comment on with this variety from Beringer Estates' California Collection. They were so gracious to send me two bottles of their Californian grown line, and I paired the first gift (a rich 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon) with some Roasted Squash Blossoms back in August. Though I didn't forget about this beautiful pink bottle in our wine rack at any rate, the shifting work and school patterns that came with the end of summer meant that baking and blogging had to once again take a back seat in the grand scheme of things. So, with my deepest apologies to Beringer, I will now share with you what I did do with one of their more "summery" wines!

Considering I know next to nothing about the nuances of wine, and even more so taking into account the fact that I can't actually drink anymore, I left the taste test and judgement up to my mom - the only member of the family who will still consider something wine even if it's not red! Suffice it to say she really enjoyed it - so much so that I didn't actually get a chance to use a glass or two of it myself for a peach sorbet recipe that was waiting in the wings! Luckily, I did score enough off the bat to crank out this decadent cream cheese and yogurt tart, using the otherwise forgotten peaches. Really though, the price of these bottles is more than reasonable for pretty much anyone, even a non-drinker like myself, at $7 US a pop on their website and just under $10 CAN at the LCBO. The drinkability of the White Zin made it something my mom declared she'd easily spend up to $15 on, especially during the summer - though she did suggest making spritzers with it over the Winter holidays with a gingerale or even a lemon seltzer.

Not only did I spike the rich vanilla filling with the wine, using what I could smell as almost a pear / melon / berry type of flavour to play off the juicy peaches, but I also added a decent dose of the White Zinfandel to the shortcrust dough I used as a base instead of the milk. To paraphrase Alton Brown, the alcohol in the wine doesn't bind with the gluten proteins in the flour, so the dough doesn't toughen as quickly in the rolling / pressing out process. Any sort of flavour given to the dough was kind of lost on the tasting panel of my family and friends due to the body of the filling, but I would love to see what it's like au naturel!

Zinfandel Vanilla Tart
Serves 10
Enough shortcrust pastry for a 10" pie
1 egg white
1/2 cup sugar
8 ounces light cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp vanilla (or plain) yogurt
2 tbsp White Zinfandel wine
1 tbsp vanilla
1 peach, skinned and diced
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Roll out pastry dough and line an 11" tart pan (preferably with a removable bottom!). Dock with a fork and brush all over with the egg white.
  3. Bake 16 minutes. Cool completely.
  4. Meanwhile, beat together sugar, cream cheese, yogurt, wine and vanilla until smooth.
  5. Fold in peaches gently.
  6. Pour cheese mixture into the baked pie shell and chill 5-6 hours before serving.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 181.0
Total Fat: 8.8 g
Cholesterol: 13.2 mg
Sodium: 167.1 mg
Total Carbs: 21.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.4 g
Protein: 3.7 g

Monday, November 23, 2009

Garlic and Dill

It's no secret in our household that I am a sour dill pickle freak. I kid you not, we usually have at least a full litre jar of my favourite kosher dill Strub's in our fridge, and (provided I have someone stronger than me to open it!) I go in with a  fork at least once a day for my fix. I've been like this since I was an infant too - I teethed on baskets of pickles at the pub my parents used to frequent, and every time I visited a set of grandparents it wouldn't be the cookie jar I'd hit first but the fridge! If I was at my maternal grandparent's place, you could be sure that the cocktail onion jar would be missing half its contents by bedtime. On the other hand, if I visited my dad's mom near the end of the summer, she'd have a jar or two of her homemade cukes sitting around, bursting with a garden's worth of dillweed and a plethora of fresh garlic.

It's been a while since I've had the pleasure of crunching into a home-cured briny cucumber. Grandma stopped her pickling days shortly after her husband passed away and she relocated to a smaller townhouse without a garden. I had made pickles myself only once, in an elementary Home Economics class, but they were nothing like the garlic-infused delicacies I remembered. For one, my Home Ec recipe had sugar in it, which I despise in pickled cucumbers (bread & butter? No, thanks!), and for another, there was no pepper! So I tweaked. And tweaked. Then finally, following a fateful (and fun-filled!) excursion to the BrickWorks organic farmer's market this August, meeting up with none other than Joel (of Get the Foodie 411) and a couple other Tweeters, I had everything I could ask for to make my own cured crunchers.

And what brilliant pickles they were! To toot my own horn (and loudly, I may add), these pickles rival my favourite Strub's after a good two weeks in the fridge. While they aren't quite like the giant deli-style ones from my childhood teething days (!) they are mighty fine specimens - crammed with peppery zing and garlicky body, and not a hair of sugar to muck up the works! If you like sour dills - and I mean really like them, please please please try these... you will be glad you did. Even if you aren't so glad while waiting the minimum week for them to cure!

Garlicky Dill Fridge Pickles
Makes 3 litres
8 cups filtered water
1/4 cup coarse sea salt
3 tbsp cider vinegar
2 3/4 lbs small, "warty" cucumbers (like Kirby), scrubbed and halved lengthwise
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
20 garlic cloves, crushed
15 whole black peppercorns, cracked
1 tsp yellow mustard seed
  1. Scrub 3 (1 L) jars and their lids well in very hot, soapy water, dry upside down on a clean tea towel.
  2. Combine the water, salt, vinegar, peppercorns and mustard seed in a saucepan.
  3. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and cool 5 minutes.
  4. Pack layers of garlic, dill and cucumbers in each jar.
  5. Pour the (very) warm brine over them, covering the cucumbers completely.
  6. Screw the lids on tightly and place in the the refrigerator, undisturbed, for a minimum of 7 days (I recommend at least 14). The longer you leave them in the refrigerator the better they will be.
Amount Per Litre
Calories: 54.0
Total Fat: 0.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 9,438.1 mg
Total Carbs: 11.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.3 g
Protein: 2.9 g

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shopping Trips

If you belong to the world of [slight] obsession that is food - and let's face it, if you're reading any blog like this one you do - you undoubtedly understand the special allure that shopping for anything culinary-related has. It can be quite the addiction, and if you pardon the expression, the time suck, albeit a rather enjoyable one! For instance, my family knows that if they need something from the grocery store within the time span of say, an hour or so, they don't send me by myself! I will make special trips to out-of-the-way shops of all kinds for no reason: from trawling tiny fruit sellers downtown after an acupuncture appointment, to popping into the three health food stores in town that all know be on sight, to gabbing on and on with the poor souls working at the two Bulk Barns nearby that I pretty much live in (I should even consider changing my address!), I live for anything and everything in the world of food.

I know I'm not the only one out there, either. I'm slowly converting some followers to the "foodie" mentality - including my techno-phobic mom (who still barely checks her e-mail address, let alone ever reading this blog!). I've mentioned it before (probably more than once, but it's worth repeating!) but my Mom was my first cooking teacher and is still the "queen of the Christmas shortbreads", the Challah and Brioche guru and posessor of the most perfect apple square and fresh Spy Pie technique out there. While I don't think I can ever hope to clone those talents for myself (I am coming close, but not being able to taste the end product makes perfection hard!), I've started to turn mom onto the joys of thinking about what food can mean besides just something on the table three times a day, and that making something different and "outside the box" doesn't have to be saved for Christmas! Now, we hit the grocery store every week and (even though it's a Big Bad Box kind of store) we make it almost a kind of adventure - I'll spew off all kinds of random trivia about the vegetables and new "international fare" on the shelves. The two of us are essentially herbivores too, a habit that always involves buying so much produce every week that our cart is full before we get to anything not a plant! See those photos? Yeah - those were our last two shopping trips... the bottom of the two is the result of two - yes two - grocery carts' worth of food (including 7 heads of lettuce - of which there are 4 remaining after only 3 days!). I've even convinced her to trust my judgement when it comes to trying out new, untested recipe ideas that I've passed along, either from my own imagination or from the amazing bevy of blogs I pore over.

Unfortunately, even though she's on her way to becoming a bona fide foodie, Mom just can't "get into" the mentality surrounding cooking and eating that lead me to begin writing this blog. While cooking a meal every day is treated more or less as a simple expectation on her time and energy, for me it's nothing short of therapy. Even days where I'm gone before the sun is up and don't get in the door until easily 7:30 at night, being able to crank up the stove and give myself a filling and "full" meal sends me back from the brink of burnout enough that I can focus on finishing at least a couple more tasks on my to do list before lights out. Needless to say, the majority of my "non standard" food shopping is done alone - and though I'm not in love with that reality, I was even less fond of forcing others into outings like those more than I already do.

But, here's where the awesome network of bloggers and other food-minded people out there (and especially on Twitter!) come in. This summer I was lucky enough to catch up with a couple people who I'm now grateful to call my friends - including Joel from Foodie411 - for a morning at one of the Toronto markets, and most recently the two of us along with Bon of Bon Eats scoured the St. Lawrence Market for most of a day, catching up and gleaning inspiration from pretty much everything we saw there. When we went for lunch, we all managed to come down with a serious squid craving - odd, I know, but what can I say?? We live this type of stuff! In fact, my yen for some Japanese-inspired calamari and rich mushrooms was so great that I went back to the market that day and picked up four fresh, beautiful squid along with a big handful of shiitakes that quickly became dinner!

Teriyaki Mushroom - Stuffed Squid On A Bed Of Baby Spinach
Serves 1
1 1/2 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce, divided
2 tsp brown sugar, divided
1/2 tsp rice vinegar, divided
2 tbsp water, divided
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
pinch each wasabi powder, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes
170g shiitake or cremini mushrooms, chopped
140g squid bodies (about 2), cleaned
3 cups baby spinach
  1. Preheat the broiler on HI, lightly mist a baking sheet with non-stick spray.
  2. In a small dish combine 1/2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp brown sugar, 1/4 tsp vinegar, 1 tbsp water, 1/4 tsp ginger and seasonings to taste. Set aside.
  3. In another dish combine the remaining soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, water, ginger and seasonings.In a non-stick pan over medium heat, saute the mushrooms in a small amount of water or cooking spray until brown.
  4. Stir in the larger volume of soy sauce mixture and cook 30 seconds longer. Remove to a bowl.
  5. Using a small spoon, fill the squid bodies with mushroom mixture. Reserve any remaining mixture for salad.
  6. Move the stuffed squid onto the sheet, drizzle with remaining soy sauce mixture and place under the broiler.
  7. Cook 3 minutes each side.
  8. Remove to a cutting board and slice with a sharp knife.
  9. Serve on top a bed of baby spinach along with any remaining mushroom mixture.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 216.9
Total Fat: 2.9 g
Cholesterol: 326.2 mg
Sodium: 1,494.2 mg
Total Carbs: 19.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.2 g
Protein: 31.2 g

Friday, November 13, 2009

In the Kitchen of Eden

In the world of the kitchen, there are widely accepted and expected ingredient and flavour marriages that are as commonplace as the latest Hollywood divorce. Onions and garlic, peanut butter and anything (but especially the infamous grape jelly), apples and cinnamon - all are go to staples in most recipe arsenals, whether mental or physically documented. Basic and reliable combinations were some of the first things I learned as an eager "mini-baker" at my mom's elbow, and it wasn't until much later when I began writing my own recipes that I began really testing the other matchups that might be out there. I've come across some real winner over the years for sure - my best friend clued me in to the delicious mixture of tart lemon and sweet cherry one summer when we were messing around with cake mixes and frosting in her kitchen, and I re-engineered the blend for her a couple years down the road. I played with saffron, adding it to raisin-studded Challah, herbaceous breadsticks and most recently pairing it with a Merlot and walnut-packed celebration loaf for our Thanksgiving table.

One of the pairings that I had dabbled in but never really pursued was tart, dark cherries and cloyingly sweet white chocolate. Not being a particularly huge fan of the white stuff myself, and not having anyone in my family who particularly clamoured for it either, the marriage made famous by Ben & Jerry's has (as far as I know) made only a single appearance in the pages of this blog - when I made the namesake cookies.

But, as it turns out, the call of inspiration can come at any time, from anywhere! After seeing a Tweet by Patricia (blogger at Brownies for Dinner), I became enthralled with the idea of creating one of her latest farmer's market finds: a sweet yeast bread filled with white chocolate chips and dried dark cherries. I set about meddling around with a honey-rich white loaf recipe from my mom's Bread Book - one that admittedly we had never made before, since home made bread was reserved for Christmas mornings - and wound up with this dense (yet tender), fruit studded treat. While it's in no way what I was looking for at the beginning of my trials, with the white chocolate pieces melting into the flour and the whole mess being more of a batter than a "dough" - my mom didn't complain at all. In fact, it disappeared so fast that I almost didn't get a photo of the finished bread to share! Good thing I did though - I'm sending it off to YeastSpotting over at WildYeast.

Cherries and White Chocolate Bread
Serves 16
1/2 tbsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
1/3 cup honey
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp fat free vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup "lite" margarine spread, melted
1 egg
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tbsp salt
3 oz white chocolate chunks
3 oz dried cherries
milk for brushing crust
  1. In a large bowl (or stand mixer fitted with the dough hook) combine yeast and warm water, stirring well. Let stand 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in honey, then gradually add 3 cups flour, stirring well.
  3. Beat in yogurt, margarine and egg until well incorporated, then add remaining whole wheat flour and salt.
  4. Knead for 10 minutes, until strong "gluteny" strands form.
  5. Add white chocolate and cherries, knead in for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Place into an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours.
  7. Deflate dough and scrape into a large greased loaf pan.
  8. Lightly cover and allow to rise 1 hour, until cresting the top of the pan.
  9. Preheat oven to 375F.
  10. Brush top of the loaf with milk and bake for 35 minutes until hollow-sounding when tapped.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 200.0
Total Fat: 3.8 g
Cholesterol: 14.1 mg
Sodium: 47.2 mg
Total Carbs: 37.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.0 g
Protein: 4.7 g

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Super Strogie

There is something about classic comfort food that speaks directly into your soul. While a pile of greens and sprouts is virtuous and good for the body, there is no beating a giant dish of gooey macaroni and cheese or a thick slice of warm apple pie when you need to wind yourself down. Hippocrates would have approved of the (now maligned) practice of eating when stressed out, sick or otherwise incapacitated... his motto was after all "let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food"! As November continues along its merry way and the darkness of the short days takes up more and more of our free time, The stews and roasts begin re-appearing, and suddenly it's not a bad thing to have the oven on!

As a kid one of my favourite dishes was my mum's beef stroganoff. Well, it wasn't really "her" recipe (it came from the Milk calendar about a thousand years ago), but it was creamy, hearty and something that we could look forward to when we saw the stewing beef thawing in the fridge! Usually we'd have it with rice (as a kid I'd always have it in it's own bowl, no food touching!!), and we'd wipe our plates clean! When I started figuring out that my body was rejecting the things that were instrumental in beef strogie (um, like beef, butter, milk and sour cream!!) it was like tearing myself away from the animal shelters everytime I visit. I know it's the best option, but it's still a hard pill to swallow.

I did find myself a remedy to that, though! I can't really remember how I stumbled onto Eat Me Delicious' mushroom stroganoff recipe (I think it may have been when I looked up this treat!), but I am SO glad that I did - plus it gave me another way to enjoy mushrooms! I did go against our usual custom of the rice bed and stirred in some brown rice fettuccine at the very end, and veganized the recipe with soy yogurt. It's not a particularly light meal, to be sure, and it is carb-heavy, but of course you don't have to add as many (or any!) noodles. For me, though, it's a delicious way to pop into Ruth's Presto Pasta Nights event hosted at Sweet and Savoury this Friday.

Tofu Mushroom Strogie
Serves 1-2
3 oz extra firm tofu, drained, pressed well and cubed
steak spice, to taste
8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp red wine
1 tsp tapioca flour
1/2 cup "not-beef" broth
1/3 cup plain soy yogurt
2 tsp dried parsley
salt & pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice pasta (I used fettuccine), kept hot
  1. Cover tofu with a sprinkling of steak spice, set aside.
  2. Cook the mushrooms and onion in water over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until the mushrooms have released all their liquid and it has mostly evaporated.
  3. Add the wine and cook 1 minute, until it is slightly reduced.
  4. Mix the tapioca flour and broth in a small dish.
  5. Pour over the mushrooms and bring the mixture to a boil.
  6. Add tofu to the pan, lower the heat and simmer 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  7. Stir in soy yogurt and parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Add noodles and toss well to coat. Serve immediately.
Amount Per Serving

Calories: 528.8
Total Fat: 8.6 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 352.4 mg
Total Carbs: 88.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 7.0 g
Protein: 27.4 g

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Apples and Cider and Butterscotch... YUM!

As I'm sure you all (well, the loyal 2 or 3 that still read my ramblings!) have probably figured out by my less than regular participation in the online world these days, I've once again been sucked into the rather large black hole that is the mid-term project and exam period at school. I'm still living and breathing food, more or less, but during the week (and some weekends, it turns out!) it tends to be less "delicious food-porn" and more "pureed [non] baby-food, reformed somethingorother" that's on my computer screen. The one saving grace of my workload thus far has been my Marketing and Merchandising course, which aside from being dead simple is actually kind of fun to work with. For instance, one of our projects has to do with promoting Canadian fish and seafood products, so drawing from my list of Toronto-area foodie pals and chefs on Twitter I was able to not only snag a couple great recipes for my handout but also a roster of awesome, local friendly restaurants for my classmates to look through.

Of course, there is other work to be done too, not nearly as entertaining as marketing campaigns but apparently essential. Unfortunately, because I tend to get bored (and therefore distracted!) quickly by the rest of my classes, the work winds up taking 3x as long as it really should! Part of it could be the fact that baking is just so much more beneficial to my stress level and interest, but naahh... let's just say it's that the work is "too much and too mindless" to be worthy of my valuable time and mental effort. Sound better, right? Yeah, I thought so too.

So to pass the time in between bursts of non-foodie writing, Tweeting, churning out an occasional post and perusing the blogs of other, more dedicated authors than I, the mixing bowls, flour, sugar and spices still come out to play once or twice a week. Would you really expect anything different?

This latest Fall snacking "cake" or "square" is my egg-free, whole grain riff on Jamie's Apple Bar recipe that she posted way back in early September. I slightly lowered the sugar in the batter portion (which I usually do as a matter of course), but then did away with any notion of real nutrition by packing it full of butterscotch chips and some spiced instant apple cider mix I found lurking in the back of our pantry. But no matter... really, if you're going to have a dessert, what's the fun in chewing on something that's a shadow of it's former self? Balance, like between work and leisure, yin and yang, et cetera, is key. And you can always freeze the leftovers - provided of course there are any!

Apple Cider Butterscotch Bars
Serves 12
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
1/3 cup hot water
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 (.75 oz) packets apple cider drink mix
3 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 large apple, peeled and diced
1/2 cup butterscotch chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a 9x9" pan with parchment.
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the flaxseed and hot water. Let stand 5-10 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cider drink mix. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl beat oil, brown sugar, vanilla and the flaxseed mixture.
  5. Stir in dry ingredients until just combined, then fold in the apples.
  6. Spread into the pan and sprinkle with the butterscotch chips.
  7. Bake for 25-35 minutes. Cool completely in the pan before cutting.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 204.2
Total Fat: 6.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 10.9 mg
Total Carbs: 34.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.3 g
Protein: 2.3 g

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Winter Late Fall of Our Discontent

Now that we've had to do away with our beloved Daylight Savings Time for another year, it feels like we've managed to enter a perpetual "twilight zone". We get up in pitch-black surroundings now, instead of with sun shining into our windows, and by the time I'm en route to school we've barely made it past that first glow. Coming home is the same story, depending on the day of the week and my schedule! Until the snow starts flying, though, I'll be content with just the dark and dim drives. Talk to me in February, and chances are it'll be a different story!

Being the time of the year that it is, between the shifting times and ever-popular midterm exams (we're in week 2 of 3 right now!), everyone's time is at a higher premium than ever before. Meals that can be whipped together, dumped into a bowl and dished up so that we can all get back to everything else are a priority, and the less fiddling around with bits and pieces of intricate recipes the better. Of course, a good meal, and preferably a healthy one, is not something that either my mom nor I are particularly willing to sacrifice. I've been turning her into quite the foodie, in fact... though she'd never admit to it in "mixed" (i.e. "normal") company. Sure enough, though, give us our Saturdays at the grocery store and the occasional trip to a fun market downtown, and we are some happy home cooks!

Finding a way to balance my "gourmet" yearnings and my "get-home-at-7:30PM" schedule was one of the main causes of this recipe's birth. I love rice (especially in sushi!!) but my favourite, long-grain brown variety takes 45 minutes to slowly simmer away. Even making a bunch ahead of time and freezing it (which I do occasionally) leaves me with more or less identical bricks of grain. If you want something rich and decadent - say, a risotto - not only do you have to cook from fresh but you also have to stand and stir... not hard work, for sure, but not exactly A-1 on my list of to-dos even on the best of days. Enter the anathema of rice connoisseurs everywhere... Minute Rice.

Yes, I know! Don't take away my food blogging license! The mushy, disintegrating texture that Minute Rice takes on as it cooks is perfect for things like risottos and rice pudding, and apparently it's even good for sushi (though I haven't been brave enough to test that theory yet!). Add to that the fact that we had a decent sized box of brown Minute Rice in our pantry, a lemon, some asparagus and even the remnants of a tub of fat free Philly in our fridge, and dinner was jazzed up just a little bit more. It's not risotto like your Italian "Nonna" would make, or probably even admit to knowing you cooked, but it's not dry cereal and ice cream. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Super-Fast "Fauxotto"
Serves 1
1/2 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup Minute Rice Whole Grain Brown Rice
1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
6 oz asparagus, cut into 1" pieces
1 tbsp Kraft Philadelphia Herb & Garlic Cream Cheese (98% fat free)
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp black pepper

  1. Heat non-stick cooking spray or 1/4 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add shallot and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
  3. Add rice, stirring well to mix with shallot and garlic.
  4. Stir in broth and bring to a boil.
  5. Add asparagus in an even layer over rice mixture.
  6. Cover and reduce the heat to low.
  7. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  8. Add cream cheese, lemon zest and juice.
  9. Continue mixing until cheese melts and mixture is well combined.
  10. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
  11. Top with black pepper and serve
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 226.5
Total Fat: 2.4 g
Cholesterol: 5.0 mg
Sodium: 584.8 mg
Total Carbs: 46.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.6 g
Protein: 9.3 g