Friday, April 29, 2011

Mostly Homemade Pepperoni Pizza (100% Vegan and Sandra Lee Free!)

 Sometimes I cannot believe my luck in the kitchen. I mean, while I’m all for experimenting and trying new things, so often it’s in the bakeshoppe area of my life and I rely on the feedback of others to find out if what I did was successful or a dismal failure. When it comes to cooking for myself though, even I can’t believe how limited the rotation of my meals tends to be. Generally, the same dry-baked tofu gets traded out with salads, sometimes a pita or other wrap, soup and occasionally some gluten free pasta or rice with vegan parmesan and veggie balls. Because I eat so often, and love my snacks, I keep the “meal” portions of my day fairly small – I fall into that “ideal eater” category of habit by chowing down on 6 mini-meals daily, more out of the inability to stomach that much food at once than any attempt at a “holier than thou” attempt. Once I find a mixture or two of flavours that I like (or at least can stomach) it falls into step until I get sick of it. Sometimes I get sidelined with the oddest cravings for things, too, which demand attention in some way, shape or form, and that’s how my vegan tofu pepperoni pizza came around.

Without cheese, but lavishly capped with thin-sliced tomato and portabello mushrooms, my storebought tortill-za would have been delicious anyways (maybe with some broccoli too!). I made up an impromptu garlic and oregano “sauce” out of ketchup (yeah, I know) and it actually paired so well with the hot and smoky spicing on the tofu that I made it again. And again. And again. Yeah – seeing a pattern here??

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Canadian Prince

So, are you staying up to watch the nuptual shindig that has swept the world by storm? Personally, it takes the demands of the gym to drag me out of bed anywhere near that early, and when you consider the amount of times the Will & Kate ceremony will be replayed in the following days I figure I'll eventually see the good parts. My sister and I have decided that the whole lead-up to the wedding is getting quite irritating to say the least, since every television channel, radio station and website seems to have something to say about the whole ordeal. I wish the two all the best, I really do, which is why I can't help but imagine how tired they must be of the constant attention.

While I know a lot of English residents are actually extremely apathetic - 79% said in a survey that they were "largely indifferent" or "couldn't care less" about the event - the money spent by those wanting to leave the country coupled with the incoming tourist revenue is going to do wonders for their economic state. The activities of British royalty definitely still hold an alluring aura for many members of the world public, and it's easy to see why. On some level, every girl dreams of her own Prince Charming fairytale (a la Disney) and the grand splendour of it all is still a passing fantasy for many.

While not part of the british royal family, lovers out there have another, far more accessible Prince to fall in love with. Handsome, sweet, definitely charming, exotic and always available, he's one tasty catch - he's even technically savvy! Not to mention he's also crunchy, nutritious and delicious.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cranberry Catch Up

Wow – when did I promise to have this baby up? I know I mentioned posting this cranberry, nut and pumpkin cake a few months back. That’s still way after I actually made the thing (which was back in the more seasonal climes of last October), but at least I kept the recipe saved! It really is a keeper, though, and even though the time for pumpkins and hearty spices is on it’s way out for another six months or so I’d still make it again in a heartbeat. Really, it’s hard to argue with such a vibrant assortment of flavours and textures! Come to think of it, the moisture and richness of this dessert might make a nice closure to a light-weight Springtime meal or cup of tea – especially if you elect to have it with a bit of honeyed yogurt dolloped on the side! Besides... is it ever a bad time for cake?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Banana Bread - The Catch-All of My Life

You have to love the constancy of leftovers in the house. No matter how well we try to plan our shopping trips each week, we always have the two parallel situations of "oh my gosh we're out of that?" and "I didn't know we already had (x number) of that". Either way, the end result is usually some limp veggies (hello, stock bag!) or over-ripe fruit, a few tablespoons of yogurt, a few dribbles of milk. I have lots of "pantry" leftovers, usually remnants from previous recipes that aren't enough to stand alone, or mixes of things I used as coatings (like for my Monkey Balls). Rather than throw out the bits and pieces (really, it's just wrong to waste like that), I usually resort to one of my go-to "use up" recipe formulas, which I think I've talked about before. That, of course, is the ubiquitous banana bread.  

Friday, April 22, 2011

Re-post for Easter: Colourful Easter Nest Cookies!

I made these with the Boys and Girls Club I co-opped at last year - perfect for Easter and definitely worth a repeat performance!

They're cute, colourful and incredibly rich, but so worth every bite!

Here's my original post
Colourful Easter Nest Cookies
Makes 15
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup Kamut flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup jumbo semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup miniature M&M's
15 chocolate "Mini Eggs"
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a large cookie sheet.
  2. Cream butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Add egg and vanilla, beating well.
  3. Add cocoa, flours, baking powder and salt, stir in gently.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips and mini M&M's.
  5. Drop 1 1/2" balls of dough onto the sheet, leaving about 1 1/2" of space.
  6. Lightly press a Mini Egg into the centre of each ball of dough.
  7. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes.
  8. Cool completely on the sheets.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 153.0
Total Fat: 7.2 g
Cholesterol: 23.2 mg
Sodium: 13.1 mg
Total Carbs: 22.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.8 g
Protein: 2.4 g

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Where's the Wheat?

When I bake treats for my classmates at school, I try to be mindful of as many of their diets and allergies as possible – there are several vegans (most of my friends, actually, and some of the coolest people in school IMHO!), as well as a few with celiac disease, wheat allergies (a whole separate animal), nut and dairy allergies and IBS. As with any group, there are also those who are trying to lose weight and boost their whole grain intake (a good idea for anyone!). While the gluten-free options I bring in are admittedly a bit sporadic (I’m working on a more regular rotation, really!), vegan and whole grain items are more or less the general rule with me, and I do try to limit the sugar and fat content in what I share. The quickbreads are always popular, especially since I put the food out when I get in at 9:30AM and many people haven’t had breakfast yet, and even if they don’t eat it right away I can tell they’re a great pick-me-up mid-morning when the tea mugs run dry and the lectures hit a lull.

I made this loaf both for the appetites of my schoolmates and to use up the last of the fresh 5-spice peach pie filling I made last year. I had the dregs of the juice from a few oranges kicking around too, that was really the case of my eyes being too big for my stomach (apparently 3 oranges is too much!). It’s a pretty basic loaf, with applesauce and the pie filling crowding out the need for added oil. While I did use sugar, I drastically reduced it (2 cups in a loaf?? Really?) and it balanced out the spiciness of the ginger and 5-spice nicely. The raw sugar crust on top is totally optional but is a nice contrast to the tender loaf!
It ‘s wheat free, nut free and vegan, but I didn’t drag out my gluten-free arsenal for this one (I’m still not too skilled with GF loaves). If you make this and need gluten-free, I’d love to hear how you modified the mixture and what flours you used!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Better Together

I have a love for peanut butter. I was one of those kids who would take to a jar of Kraft with a soup spoon, eating mountains of the spread at a time. I was also a pretty big fan of the Caramilk chocolate bars, and their thick, gooey-sweet centres. When I made these babies a few weeks back, I was left with a part jar of dulce de leche in the fridge, along with some heavy cream we didn't use for my mom's birthday dinner. Somehow or other over the course of looking for a recipe to make the aforementioned Chocolate-Caramel treats I happed across a recipe on Expat Cucina that was all dulce all the way. But I wanted more. Caramel is all well and good, but how would it pair with my favourite peanut butter?

Friday, April 15, 2011

IHN - Food Network Style!

It’s safe to say that I will probably not be the latest Food Network darling. While I do adore cooking (obviously!) and love to teach others how to embrace the wonders of the kitchen and the world of food, the whole “me || audience” style of teaching is so cold to me. I need to be able to work with my students, teach them hands-on, get feedback and really know that what I’m saying and trying to ingrain in them is actually getting through. But a food demo was what we had to do for the class, and it had to be a healthy recipe prepared start to finish in ten minutes, at least in appearances like on TV, with a poster, a recipe handout and a brochure too. Which meant I actually had to make and stick to a recipe, and make it look easy to do in 10 minutes. Without cooking or reheating equipment or running water. Dang. And whatever I picked had to fit other dietary criteria too: vegetarian, nut / coconut free, and we had to supply a gluten free option. Mind you, a good portion of the students ignored that, but having lived with restrictions myself I felt it wasn’t fair to not make something the vast majority of my class could tolerate and enjoy.

I have to say, though, that people got all kinds of creative. While the obvious route (which some of us, me included, took in the interest of time and equipment) was to completely prepare a food at home for the “voila” dish and show all the “look how you can prepare it at home” stuff during the demo, some people really went all out. We had gas-lit hotplates going as students whipped up japchae effortlessly, dished up piping hot beans and rice and even made a holistic variant on hot cocoa. Salsas, salads from all parts of the world, juices, tons of dessert-y things and even Vietnamese fresh rolls made their appearances, and nobody went hungry either day we did the demos. In short, my classmates owned it.

"Chef Plantain" made by my friend Johana

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Travel Insurance

 I can’t believe it’s been almost two whole weeks since my mom left for her work trip to Fairfax. Mind you, a lot has happened in that time – my sister’s and my birthdays (which slipped by without ceremony), I finished another two courses at IHN (and started one more – the other one’s next week), I started Zumba-ing (a new major love there) and realized just how tumultuous my relationship with my stepfather really is. I also got to play “Food Network Host” a la IHN – at least for ten minutes. But that’s for another post, with lots of pictures, a recipe and even a story about how I could never make it as the Next Food Network Star.

But like I said... that’s another post for me to write (likely in the middle of the oh-so fascinating Pathology ;-)). Anyways, being April, the time has also come for most universities and colleges to release their captives back into the world of the living. For my family, that means a caravan of my mom and stepdad, as well as my dad and his girlfriend, journeying up to Kemptville to fetch my sister from college and cart her and her belongings home. Because it’s a four-hour trip, starting roughly at 6AM, and my mom gets home from her business trip late the night before, a supply of snacks is definitely warranted. I actually get to miss the fuss and hubbub, and stay home to make her birthday cake!

Thinking of what I could possibly make to satisfy my family, I turned my attention to the latest package that I had received in the mail. Kellogg’s had sent a small sample box of their new cereal (think the 1-ish serving ones they market to kids) called Fibre Plus, so I figured well, it’s a breakfast food, and whatever I made would likely be breakfast anyway, so why not use it? I scouted around the house (discovering just how sad-looking our produce selection gets when mom’s away and I don’t have energy to do a huge shopping) and came up with some slightly floppy carrots, the end of a carton of buttermilk and tiny bags of berries, nuts and other fun things that if left to their own devices would start growing legs and walking around. But what to make? Well, lo and behold, I actually looked in a book for once and found a “Breakfast Bar” recipe by chef Jim Dodge in my copy of “The Best of FOOD” compiled by Marion Kane.

The basic formula – a buttermilk and bran concoction – just begged for customization. So breakfast left the table, and these Traveller’s Bars took flight.

Traveller's Bars
Makes 12 large bars
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp low-fat peanut butter
2 tbsp honey
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 large banana
zest of 2 oranges
1 cup shredded carrots
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup oat flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
1/3 cup rolled oats (not instant)
1 1/4 cups spelt bran (not cereal flakes)
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup psyllium fibre husks
1/4 cup unflavoured whey protein isolate
2 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
3/4 cup Kellogg's Fibre Plus Harvest Brown Sugar cereal
2 tbsp chopped walnuts
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
6 dried dates, chopped
1/4 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup diced dried apple rings
1/4 cup cinnamon chips (or chocolate chips, optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 375F and lightly grease a 9x13" pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together butter, peanut butter, honey, and brown sugar until well blended.
  3. Mash in the banana, then stir in the orange zest, carrots and buttermilk until thoroughly combined.
  4. In another bowl, combine flours, oats, bran, wheat germ, flax, psyllium, whey isolate, baking soda and salt.
  5. Stir into the buttermilk mixture, then fold in the cereal, walnuts, sunflower seeds, fruit and cinnamon chips.
  6. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
  7. Bake on the lowest rack of the oven for 25 minutes. Cool completely before cutting, wrapping and storing in the refrigerator
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 265.1
Total Fat: 9.2 g
Cholesterol: 8.7 mg
Sodium: 121.3 mg
Total Carbs: 43.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 9.6 g
Protein: 9.8 g

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dulce de Decadent

This is what happens when you let my mind carry itself away. I haven't eaten at a Tim Hortons for a good few years now, but being a good Canadian I still keep up with their host of promotions. Before this year's Roll Up the Rim, or their new smoothies, or even their new oatmeal bowls (which makes me think "Starbucks copycats"!) I think they had a caramel overload at their production plant - between a cookie, a mocha, two donuts and a muffin, we had a little bit of sugar saturation for a while.

But when I heard the ad for that "Caramel Chocolate Muffin", it lodged itself in my brain and refused to let go! I never saw what the muffins were like in person, or really heard a description beyond the marketing campaign, but I began to dream up a clone of the confection that would be a hundred times better than the original (to toot my own horn, ahem). I had images of a rich cocoa batter, ribboned through with gooey caramel and full of dark, slightly bitter sugar flavour. While I didn't actually make the dulce de leche for this batch (I know it's super-simple to do, but school's timing sucks up a lot of potential prep time!), I'm sure it would be just as awesome as the jarred version I bought - thick, rich and undeniably caramel.

I couldn't have been happier with the way these came out - super moist, extremely rich and even though they were stuffed with the dulce de leche they apparently weren't super-sweet, which I'm attributing to the unsweetened cocoa powder. Only a few days ago did I actually see a photo of the "official" muffins and found out there was no cocoa powder or chocolate (other than chips) in sight! You know what, though? Sometimes off-label is better... and muffins are never a bad thing!

Dulce de Leche Dark Chocolate Muffins
Makes 12
1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup oat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp egg replacer powder
3 tbsp cold water
7 tbsp brown sugar
1/3 warm milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cups dulce de leche or caramel ice cream topping, divided

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F, line muffin cups with paper liners and grease the top of the muffin tin.
  2. Whisk tgether flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the egg replacer powder and cold water, then add brown sugar, milk, oil, vanilla and 1/3 cup of the dulce de leche.
  4. Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  5. Drop spoonfuls of the remaining dulce de leche into the batter and swirl through without mixing it in.
  6. Fill muffin tins almost full with the batter.
  7. Bake 20 minutes. Best eaten when still slightly warm, but freeze well and can be reheated in the microwave.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 263.2
Total Fat: 7.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 5.1 mg
Total Carbs: 47.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.3 g
Protein: 3.4 g

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Playing Mouse

It’s funny what happens when my mom goes off on a business trip. Not only does the entire heartbeat of the home stop, but like stagnant water things start to go “off”. I’ve learned that all those “bits and pieces” in the fridge will grow fur and wander off on their own if left to their own devices, no matter how confident my mom is that the rest of the household will use them up in her absence. For some reason – and I’m sure he isn’t alone in this – my stepfather finds it easier to go out and buy food every night (even if he – gasp! – cooks it at home) than to open the fridge and cupboard to find his favourite cabbage rolls, soup and chili that my mom lovingly prepared the nights before she left. So the last of the cheese, the milk, the last few eggs and half a can’s worth of crushed tomatoes sit. And sit.

Well, that is until I get the baking itch – usually sparked by being fed up with seeing all the wasting food. But it was such a random mix of ingredients that filled our fridge, I wasn’t sure even I could pull something off. Luckily, adding sugar and cocoa to pretty much anything is a good start, and I took that theory and partnered it with an old, fairly popular “Tomato Soup Cake” recipe and some goodies from my pantry (including the to-die-for flavour of mesquite powder) to make a moist, tangy, slightly spicy and just sweet enough loaf cake nobody ever suspected was just the wrapping on a wealth of leftovers!

Special Spice Cake
Serves 10
1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves)
1 tbsp mesquite flour (optional)
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 cup canola oil
1 oz soft goat cheese (if you don’t have leftover chevre, use cream cheese)
3 tbsp whole milk
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 2/3 cups crushed tomatoes
2/3 cup dark raisins, soaked in hot water and drained

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease a loaf pan.
  2. Whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spice, mesquite flour and cocoa in a medium bowl.
  3. In a large bowl combine oil, goat cheese, egg, sugars, vanilla and tomatoes until well blended.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and mix gently but thoroughly to combine (do not beat).
  5. Fold in the raisins.
  6. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until tests done.
  7. Cool in pan for 1 hour before unmoulding onto wire rack. Frost with cream cheese frosting if desired.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 284.0
Total Fat: 7.2 g
Cholesterol: 20.3 mg
Sodium: 127.1 mg
Total Carbs: 55.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.5g
Protein: 5.5 g

Sunday, April 3, 2011

As Promised

This post can only mean one thing - the time-sucking, brainwave-hogging case study is FINALLY DONE!! I told you that when I returned, I'd be bringing you chocolate to attempt to woo you into not abandoning me - so hopefully this delivers your sweet tooth a nice little gift!

When I made these cookies, I was having a love affair with all things Mexican and South American. I know it's probably the most overdone combination in the world, but the mixture of bittersweet chocolate, bitter coffee and spicy cayenne and cinnamon still draws me in. Few things can offer sunch an incredible melange of scents, textures and flavours, and for those who prefer their treats on the less-sweet side these ingredients hold the balance perfectly. In an attempt to add more layers of flavour, as well as veganize the recipe, I threw in another element of mole that I only recently discovered - almonds. Specifically, all natural, unsweetened smooth almond butter.

The end result was like chocolate cookies on steroids! No one aspect overpowered another, it was both bitter, buttery, molasses-y and sweet, and stayed moist and chewy for days. The crowd at my yoga class adored these little bites (because who can say no to chocolate?), and loved the fact that there was no added fat aside from the almond butter even more! I even have it on good authority that those who detest all things "hot" or "spicy" fell captive to these. They’re a "small but mighty" cookie, two bites at most but so rich you won’t need to overindulge!