Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Either Late or Early

It's right smack-dab in the middle of the North American Thanksgiving "season" right now - our Canadian celebrations (along with my grandfather's birthday) are long since past, and the USA has yet to haul out their birds and pumpkin pie. It's always been the same sort of thing on our table during the holiday season, both at Thanksgiving and Christmas: roasted turkey (though dad did deep fry the thing a few years ago), mashed potatoes, a couple veggies of some kind (usually broccoli and Brussels sprouts at mom's, more often than not some sort of mashed squash thing at dad's), cranberry sauce, and... stuffing.

Oh, stuffing. the bane of my existence. I have never liked the whole idea of that dish... everything from the fact that it's scraps of otherwise inedible bread to the fact that it's shoved up a turkey carcass' butt and left to soak up all the fat and salmonella-y juices to the fact that it's like eating crusty mush is just not right.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Great-Full Start to A GF Day

I can't believe it's taking me so long to write posts these days. Mind you, unlike before, I'm not actually cooking and baking a whole lot either, so it's not only laziness that's led to the huge gaps between y ramblings on here. No, between school, commuting, sleep and myriads of doctor's appointments it seems that by the time I do get home looking at the computer screen doesn't rank very high on my list of to-dos. It doesn't help that I was diagnosed last week with iron-deficiency anemia, low blood sodium and a progression of my osteoperosis either - now I'm oscillating between snoozing my energy back and running on overdrive to catch up on everything I missed while asleep!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Merci, Julia, Merci

I honestly think that the application of the term "kitchen luminary and amazing home cook" cannot be applied to anyone better than Julia Child. She brought French cooking to the American and British masses (like I needed to tell you that!), and incorporated a style, grace and manner of teaching that endears her still to cooks and chefs worldwide. She also has the distinction of being the only cookbook author - indeed, the only chef - that made my mom change her entire approach to a dish that she's been making and we've been eating for years: cauliflower and cheese sauce. I personally have nothing against mom's recipe - really, it is delicious and probably won't be replaced anytime soon in our home. But Julia's recipe is not simply cauliflower and cheese sauce. And it certainly isn't the same "lighter" option for a dinner side that mom's Weight Watchers - age casserole is.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Whoa... Double [Cinnamon] All the Way...

I'm of the firm belief that when you find something - be it a flavour, a colour, an ingredient or even an idea - that is just so perfect that you can't get it out of your head, it is only fitting that you do it full justice. It is not enough to include that element just once in a recipe. No, no... the real way to experience the flavour filling your mind is to layer as many different types of it on top of one another. Take, for example, lemon cake, made with a lemon filling and topped with a lemon frosting. Really... can you ever have too much lemon? I think not. Or Alton Brown and his Super Apple Pie - the one with applejack booze in the crust. When I made it, not only did I throw Calvados (no applejeck around here) into the crust, but also a glug of local apple cider, and the filling used some homemade apple butter instead of AB's apple jelly. So the pie was not simply an apple pie. No way... that was apple on steroids pie!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

When Pie Won't Do

We finally got in our annual apple-picking trip last weekend, over the Thanksgiving holiday Monday up here in Canada. Usually, that's the precursor for more batches of my mom's famous apple pie than most people would think humanly possible to churn out... and there will be several of them, I'm sure. But because we were fairly late in the harvest season - simply because the fruit ripened incredibly early with the hot, humid Summer weather - a lot of what would normally be considered "prime" cooking apples were a little... well, not so prime.

Don't get me wrong, they'll still make pie. More than "decent" pie, as a matter of fact. But there was just enough of our batch that were battered and scarred enough that my mom was prepared to chuck them into the compost. Instead, I figured I'd see what I could do with them after making oven-roasted apple butter like before. It really is my all-time favourite "use up" trick for leftover or almost bin-worthy apples, and it helps keep them hanging around just that little bit longer. Which is perfect for the season!

With my new bounty of concentrated, caramel-hued and lusciously velvety butter in my hot little hands (or big, cold fridge... whatever) I was faced with a myriad of options as to what to do with it. I did do the apple-butter pumpkin pies, of course... but I think I like these cheesy, dense, tall cakes better. There's just something about cheesecake that brings it above and beyond any other dessert out there, and really with the home made apple butter and the combination of toasted coconut, oats and cookie crumbs in the spiced crust, you'll be glad it's Fall all over again!

Apple Butter Cheesecake
Serves 16
¾ cup vanilla or graham cookie crumbs (GF if needed)
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ cup butter, melted
16 oz cream cheese
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup apple butter (sweetened)
10.5 oz (300 g) silken tofu, pureed
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp fresh-grated ginger
1 tbsp instant apple cider mix (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp milk
1 tbsp vanilla
2 tbsp sweet rice flour (or tapioca flour)

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease and line the bottom of a 9” springform pan with parchment.
  2. In a small bowl, combine cookie crumbs, oats, coconut, nutmeg, cinnamon and butter, tossing with a fork to moisten.
  3. Press evenly into the bottom of the pan.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven and wrap the bottom and sides of the pan with a layer of foil. Set aside.
  5. Turn the oven down to 325F.
  6. In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese, brown sugar, apple butter and tofu until well mixed.
  7. Add the cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cider mix and salt and beat well.
  8. In a small dish stir together the milk, vanilla and sweet rice flour until smooth, then add to the cheese mixture and beat in.
  9. Pour into the prepared crust and tap on the counter sharply to dislodge any air pockets.
  10. Place the cake into a deep roasting pan and pour boiling water ½ way up the side of the springform.
  11. Bake for 1 hour, until the centre is mostly set.
  12. Turn the oven off and allow the cake to cool inside for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and the water bath and cool completely on a wire rack.
  13. Chill overnight before serving.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 240.2
Total Fat: 14.4 g
Cholesterol: 39.0 mg
Sodium: 153.3 mg
Total Carbs: 27.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.7 g
Protein: 3.9 g

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Way, for United Way

My mom's work does a lot of fundraising. I think there's at least one event for the Red Cross each year, and I believe it's twice a year that my mom's office hosts a bakesale that benefits the local United Way. However often it is, anyways, I'm always one to get a flurry of emails from people in her building that know me pretty much as "Heather's daughter, the girl who bakes yummy healthy stuff", asking if I'd mind sending in a batch of cookies. Would I mind? Come on!

Of course, they know that whatever I send in will be healthy(ish), delicious and most likely weird somehow! They've come to expect the alternative flours and grains in my baking, the assorted spices and veggies snuck in to everything under the sun and the sheer fact that you just can't get the "out-of-the-box" ideas I bake up from the store! My mom is fairly hesitant to send in "odd" bakes to the fundraisers, though, since she still believes (contradictory to what I hear) that people just don't want to buy them as much. Well, I know there are exceptions, but I've had enough experience doing bake sales from the time I was 7 years old at school that anything home made trumps a box of TimBits or a bag of Mr. Christies. They're good and all, but if I"m buying something from a bake sale, I think baking should have actually taken place. Even if it's from a box mix, the effort and time spent at home for the cause indicates a bit more than "I picked this up on my morning coffee run". Plus, baking for the events lets you play - even if it's just adding chocolate chips to a muffin mix or grating a bit of orange zest into a brownie batter, you get to make the day your way.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Guilt and Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving weekend is here once again. I love the preparation for the holidays, with all the baking and cooking and meal planning filling the week leading up to the big event, but when the day arrives I would honestly prefer to be anywhere but where the feast is taking place. I know it's selfish and odd for me to say that, but no matter how many years go by I can't escape the "awkward" feeling I get by having my own, totally different meal at the table. It doesn't really help matters on my end that I'm always juggling stove and oven space with everyone and everything else just to get something warm for dinner, or that if I'm going to someone else's home for the meal I wind up packing a duffel bag of my "safe" foods to take. Awkward. I feel badly too for the hosts of those get togethers too, who really do care about me and want to do whatever they can to make my holidays enjoyable, since I really do dread the travel and long evenings, and always wind up leaving the party at around 8 because I'm so exhausted!

Yeah, so I'm the "bad" relative these days... but every family needs one, right? At least I show up, and I never come empty handed - you can always count on something yummy walking in the door with me! Especially around the Fall and Winter holidays, where pies reign supreme. We always seem to have at least two of them on offer at Thanksgiving and Christmas, usually a pumpkin and an apple, to satisfy the masses. I think the apple pie thing started out of the fact that I actually hate pumpkin pie, but love my mom's apple pie that we would make by the dozen in the Fall and freeze. Ironically enough, I've become somewhat known for my own apple and pumpkin pies now, but I would always default to something baked by mom if given the chance (and if I was actually able to eat it).

The basis of this recipe is the same idea as the last apple butter pumpkin pie I made, but I made it deep-dish style this year, added maple syrup and tofu (!) to the custard and really bumped up the flavour and texture in the crust. Don't get oogied out by the tofu thing though - it replaces two of the eggs in a standard recipe, with the added benefits of no cholesterol, no flavour, and a naturally creamy texture that doesn't "whip" like eggs can, leading to cracks in things like cheesecakes and custard pies. I swear by it in any cheesecake I make now - it really makes a difference and nobody is ever the wiser! With the crust this time, I wanted to bring in another of my mom's favourite flavours (especially in pies) - pecans. So I ground some in my food processor until they were basically the same texture as ground almonds (wow, what a revelation... ;-) ) and tossed them in with a bit of spelt flour and cinnamon.

So what's on your dessert table over the Fall holidays? Apple pie? Pumpkin? Pecan? Or something totally different?

Perfectly Pumpkin - Apple Pie with a Spelt - Pecan Crust
Makes 1 deep dish 9" pie, 12 slices
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
3 tbsp hot water
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
1/4 cup ground pecans
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
5.8 oz (3/4 cup) shortening
1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
4 to 8 tbsp ice water
5 oz silken tofu
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups apple butter
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 egg
1 cup evaporated milk

  1. In a small dish, whisk together flaxseed and hot water. Set into the fridge for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile whisk together flours, pecan meal, cinnamon and salt.
  3. Cut in shortening until a coarse-meal texture forms.
  4. Stir in vinegar and flax mixture, then add only enough water so the mixture becomes a dough.
  5. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead briefly (don't work it too much), then roll out into a large circle and fit into a 9" deep-dish pie pan. Place into the fridge while preparing the filling.
  6. Preheat oven to 425F and place the rack on the bottom rung of the oven.
  7. In a food processor, puree tofu, vanilla, apple butter, pumpkin, sugar, syrup, salt, spice, egg and evaporated milk until perfectly smooth.
  8. Spread into the crust and smooth the top.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes at 425F, then reduce oven to 350F and bake a further 45 minutes.
  10. Turn off the oven and let the pie sit inside for 1 hour, then remove and cool to room temperature before cutting (ideally, chill this overnight - the flavours really blend well!)
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 345.0
Total Fat: 16.9 g
Cholesterol: 23.8 mg
Sodium: 38.3 mg
Total Carbs: 44.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.9 g
Protein: 6.6 g

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's That Time of Year

And as much as it may be true, I'm not referring to the start of cold and flu season. Yeah, a good portion of my classmates are feeling the cold weather cold at IHN - and I for once have managed to escape scot free so far (but I did get stuck into the walk-in clinic for kidney tests. Joy of joys).

But no. Not cold and flu season. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Making Summer Linger

After a Summer season that was as amazingly warm, sunny and generally enjoyable as this year's was, I'm unwilling to resign myself to the shortening days and cooler winds that are gracing us now. I've already been asked by a few family members for Christmas gift ideas (!) - not that I don't have any, mind you (new camera, anyone?? Preferably one that doesn't eat my shots??) but it's only October first! There are still some tomatoes and beans desperately clinging to the vines, my carrots and beets are still happily nestled in the soil and I'm sure I can get one last crop of rhubarb out of the year before the blitz of frost hits and ruins the rest of the plant life.

I did have to put my cucumber garden to rest last week, though. A few fairly cold snaps overnight sapped the last dregs of energy from the plants, and it was all I could to to grab the last few fruits off the vines before they wilted into sacs of mush. Even so, I again wound up with more veggies than I knew what to do with, or wanted to make pickles out of. To add to the glut, my stepdad finally decided to cut down the 5-foot-long zucchini (no, I'm not exaggerating!) for seed, but only used about a third of it, leaving the rest on the counter for the fruit flies (gee, thanks for that).