Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Spicy Raisin Bread

My sister can be, shall we say, finicky when it comes to food. I have never met somebody with a palate as honed as hers who is so anti-foodie. She's happy with her box mix pancakes and chocolate cake with canned frosting and premade decorating icing, her frozen pizza pockets and waffles, and the neon-orange mac and cheese. But she does like one thing I make her - cinnamon raisin bread. I figure it's about time that she start liking the homemade stuff, especially since now she's developed a taste for whole wheat and with one or two exceptions a whole-grain cinnamon raisin "sandwich" loaf is non-existent (when I can't get to making her this recipe or my previous swirl version, she does like Country Harvest's version).

This version of the classic cinnamon raisin bread came around after several failed attempts at toasting slices of my Sister's Sweet Cinnamon - Swirl Bread. While they were perfect for French toast and fine just smeared with peanut butter, the toaster was a bit too violent for the swirl to handle. Teaghan wanted the flavour of the original but in a more cohesive package, with extra raisins. I was only too happy to oblige!

This loaf redux if being sent to Susan's YeastSpotting event.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ricotta - Tofu Tomato Toasts for #SundaySupper

I am all about eating seasonally and locally when at all possible. Living in the northern climate that we do, our growing season is short and fairly mild - but what we manage to glean from the backyard and our nearby farmers we savour. One of the crops we are never short of is tomatoes, mostly due to the fact that not only do I grow unique, heirloom varieties but my stepfather plants three or four types of "conventional" tomatoes each year. Now that it's coming round to the start of the harvest season (especially after the unseasonably warm Summer), our garden is overflowing with the candy-like produce. After waiting all year for the "true" taste of the fruit-vegetable, warm and juicy straight off the vine, we're not letting any of them go to waste!

While it may still be Summer outside, we're all more or less working full weeks - no trips to the beach (although with Lake Ontario that's not really a loss) or camping weekends like I remember from my childhood. Simple, fast meals are the order of the day, and if we can get lunch or dinner on the table that uses what we've grown out back so much the better! For #SundaySupper this week, meals in under 30 minutes are on the menu! No desserts or drinks this week, either - just good, simple entrees, snacks and appetizers that are perfect for families going back to school, work and life! Keeping the season in mind, I'm sharing one of my favourite lunches that can also serve as a simple supper with a bowl of soup or a garden salad. Tofu and ricotta puree into a creamy spread with a touch of tang and freshness from herbs and lemon. Spread on bread that's been flattened out with a rolling pin (or wine bottle...) and topped with slices of summer candy before being quickly broiled to soften everything into a delicious whole and you've got a meal for kings and hungry gardeners alike.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Make Your Next Party Count - Cook for the Cure

The fight against cancer is one that is close to my heart - I lost both my grandfathers to the ravages of the disease and watched other friends and relatives battle bravely to defeat it. For many years, Kitchen Aid has been the forerunner of  the Cook for the Cure fundraiser for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and I am honoured to share this material from them with you. If you're planning on hosting a potluck event in the near future, consider making it a Cook for the Cure Event - who knows, you may just help save the life of someone you love... or your own.

What are the signs of breast cancer?
  • Usually painless lumps in the breast and/or armpits that do not disappear (even after menstruation).
  • Tenderness or pain in the breasts off-cycle.
  • Dimpling, indentation or flattening of the breast.
  • Unusual discharges from the nipple
  • Nipple changes - itching, dimpling, retraction, rashes, etc

Note: Many breast cancers have no obvious symptoms, or those that mimic non-cancerous conditions like infections or cysts.

A woman’s risk of breast cancer approximately doubles if she has a mother, sister or daughter who has the disease. African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer, while Asian, Hispanic, and Native Americans have a lower risk of developing and ultimately dying from breast cancer. Although the incidence rates are much higher for women (1 in 8 will be diagnosed in their lifetime), it is NOT a "women-only" disease - 1 in 1,000 men also fall victim to breast cancer.

There is good news though: overall death rates have been decreasing since 1990 thanks to advances in screening, treatment and awareness.

In short? Perform self-exams monthly, get your mammograms, and if you ever have questions about your health, talk to your doctor.

Cook for the Cure presented by KitchenAid is your opportunity to turn entertaining into fundraising! Since 2002, over $ 2.1 million has been raised for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation by KitchenAid Canada from sponsorship of Cook for the Cure and through proceeds from their pink product collection.

The next time you host a get-together, make it a Cook for the Cure party. Invite your guests to make a donation in support of the CBCF. It doesn’t matter if the donation is big or small, as all proceeds will go towards research, education, community care and advocacy, creating a future without breast cancer. As well, KitchenAid Canada will donate $50* to the funds that you raise per party** once your funds have been submitted to the Foundation. It’s that easy!

Planning your party is easy when you follow these steps:
  1. Register your event/ Visit the Cook for the Cure website and register your party.
  2. Invite friends/ Let your friends know that you’re hosting a Cook for the Cure party!
  3. Visit our Pinterest board for party themes, decorations and food.
  4. Pick a theme: A theme sets your gathering apart. Pick something seasonal, or create your own rendition of a favourite standby. Lots of ideas are available online!
  5. Set the tone: Music sets the mood, whether you’re having a close group of friends over, an open-house cocktail hour or an upbeat dance party. Craft the perfect playlist tailored to your (and your guests') tastes!
  6. Make it personal: Dress up your party with thoughtful details (like individual wine charms, a signature cock/mocktail, or a "grown up loot bag" of inexpensive but useful items (like wooden spoons with handles dipped in pink paint with the party's date written on, a homemade spice blend or even pink ribbon cookies) to leave a lasting impression, long after your guests have gone home.
  7. And most of all… Have fun! Put on your favourite outfit, take a breath and relax - you’re sure to be party-ready when your guests arrive! 
After the dishes are done, the streamers are packed away and the guests have taken their leave, be sure to post your party pics to the KitchenAid Canada Facebook page for a chance to be featured as the “Host with the Most”. 

Donations should be sent directly to the Foundation at:

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
Attn: Cook for the Cure
375 University Avenue, 6th Floor
Toronto, ON
M5G 2J5

Cheques and/or money orders should be made payable to “Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation”. For security reasons, please do not send cash

*A tax receipt will be issued automatically for donations of $20 or more
**Up to $25,000 annually
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation - Charitable Registration No. 12799 3608 RR0001

Disclaimer: I was asked by Stephanie Barber (Harbinger Communications) to promote this cause, but I received no remuneration of any sort for this post. All information below the Breast Cancer Ribbon image is the property of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation / Cook for the Cure campaign © 2012.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Citrus Curd with Crisp Meringue Caps - A Lemon-Lime Pie #RecipeRedux

 Summer always seems to scream citrus to me. Even though we don't get the best of the batch in the middle of August, it's hard to pass up a bright, tart lemonade or a scoop of tangy strawberry-lime sorbet served on the back porch. The acidity of the lemon / lime combination is a fresh pop to the day, especially for those of us who (like my family) spend every second they can outside. We're huge gardeners here, and with a summer reaching record after record temperatures the tomatoes and peppers (not to mention the weeds!) have kept us busy - and always in need of refreshment.

My mom is a huge fan of key lime pie - ideally served up in Florida from J.J. Gandy's (who we used to hit up every time we traveled to Tampa). Even as a five or six year old, I knew that pie was special, and we never had it any other time than when we were down south. We'd get a whole pie for the hotel suite's fridge (after requisite groceries at the Publix in the same parking lot!) plus a slice for each of my parents. I wasn't sure at the time if I really liked the confection enough for my own serving (I opted for something chocolatey at Publix), but I never passed up a taste of mom's every time we travelled!

 My stepdad, on the other hand, is a lemon meringue fan, which he can only have on special occasions thanks to his diabetes and penchant for overindulging in the sugary topping! I always found it strange that he liked the confection since he is vehement in his hate for anything "creamy" - but there you are. Like mom, I prefer my pies unadorned by whipped cream, meringue or fancy garnishes, especially something as rich and dense as a custard based tart!

As fresh- and light-tasting as these citrusy pastries are, though, they are deceptively rich: a modest slice of either (without whipped cream or ice cream on the side!) can easily run between 375-450 calories, with up to 14 grams of fat, 70 grams of carbs and over 20% of your daily intake of cholesterol! While I'm not saying that pie of any kind is designed to be a health food, for barely a taste of that awesome filling it seems a bit "expensive" nutrients wise. I could never ask anyone - family, friend or nutrition client - to give up something they adore, and really moderation is key... but sometimes it's nice to give in without considering what you might have to sacrifice later.

Thankfully, I've been able to finangle a bit of a "fix" for the family's citrus pie addictions that is light enough nutritionally to enjoy every night if they so wanted. I packed all the best things about a lemon or lime pie into a creamy, smooth curd that doesn't have to be baked - and with so much flavour there just wasn't room for a crust! I did want to add a bit of texture dimension with the dessert, and evoke a bit of the feel of a meringue topping. Instead of breaking out pastry or making a marshmallowy cloud, I combined crispy and light in little meringue cookie spirals. I used those as "caps" on each teacup of curd, which in the end made them look like cappuccinos!

The resulting product was fantastic - the filling (which I greatly adapted from Fifi O'Neill's "Lemon Sour Cream Pie" in The Romantic Prairie Cookbook) was a fairly basic custard with eggs (from my soon to be stepsister-in-law's mom's chickens!) and thickened with tapioca starch, laced with the zest and juice of both 2 lemons and 2 limes. For a more tropical element (as well as more creaminess), I used some Coconut Dream® along with the water and juice, and added a touch of coconut extract at the end. Instead of sour cream, I used my (and my mom's) favourite, organic nonfat plain Greek yogurt, and though I did add the touch of butter at the end, it was in my opinion a necessary component in preserving the rich texture of the dessert.

This month for the #RecipeRedux we're sharing our Most Memorable Vacation Meals. Now, I don't consider pie a meal (though it does have a protein, starch, and usually some sort of produce!) that key lime pie from Tampa was such an integral part of our vacation dinners that I had to share.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Individual Cottage Pies

One of the classic pub foods I've encountered over the years is the hearty, meaty cottage pie. You probably know these as "shepherd's pies", but the common recipe for the casserole utilizes beef these days - not the mutton that gave the original recipe it's name. Like any casserole of any kind, though, recipes are really guidelines, completely open to interpretation and a canvas for "throw it all in" use ups of ingredients. But casseroles, though simple to make, can take forever to prepare and serve a ton of people, making them a bit tricky for busy families and the singletons out there.

Given that my grandma is still fairly recently on her own, my household is all over the place with work, school and life schedules never seeming to entwine completely, and my stepbrother is still in the process of learning to cook for his (mostly vegetarian) fiance, I took that classic "meat and three", scaled it back for two and tweaked it just slightly to make it vegetarian and lower fat. The richly flavoured, herb, garlic and cheese potato topping and using a ton of veggies with the simply spiced vegetarian "meat" crumbles (I used my grandma's recipe for seasoning) kept the mini-pies completely stick to your ribs, and vegetarian or not you get wrapped in a blanket of comfort with the first bite. For those not feeding an army every night making mini-versions is even better - the "pot pie" plates make portion control, freezing and reheating easy!

Keeping in tune with the traditional recipe's economical lean, these cottage pies are relatively inexpensive to put together, especially when you consider the cost of eating out or ordering in. Plus being a whole meal in a pot (pie), my individual versions aren't too hard on the calorie budget either - with just over 400 calories for the whole mini-pan (no portion pinching!), these also pack in about 12 grams of fibre and over 370% of your minimum intake for vitamin A! My grandma could only eat half at a time, but even heartier appetites will be full after dinner.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Allergy Free Baked Doughnut Holes

Timbits were a staple bake sale offering when I was growing up. I mentioned before the bake sale hierarchy, and those delectable doughnut holes were definitely on it - at 5 cents a pop it was a cheap and cheerful snack that even the most broke of us could afford. But even amongst the Timbits there was a ranking system - chocolate anything was the first to disappear from the Snack Packs, then the filled ones, the sour cream glazed, and finally the apple fritters and Dutchies (if they went at all).

Since leaving my elementary school, I don't think I've had a Timbit other than the very occasional time it was on offer at an event. It seems that the doughnut holes (also called Munchkins, Country Bits, Coffee Bits and other assorted "bite size" cutesy things) lose favour the older you get - but sometimes you just want that taste  of something sinful without the whole package. Traditional doughnuts are a rarity around here - it's rare to find a place that actually deep fries them, and at any rate with our assorted health conditions they really shouldn't be on the menu at all. 

However, a baked option that still tastes divine is a little easier to swallow - and is a nice option for coffee break rooms (mom took some of these with her to work and I dropped the rest off at my stylist's place) and bake sales where the main buyers are adults concerned with body image! I came across a gluten free, vegan recipe for baked doughnuts in Colette Martin's Learning to Bake Allergen Free and was intrigued - not only was it free of eggs, dairy, gluten and nuts, but it was also low fat! After making the recipe as written (with the one swap of Coconut Dream for hemp milk since I had it) I wasn't thrilled with how the "large" rings looked and behaved in the oven (the "dough" was way too wet to shape) - but the leftover batter/dough that I stuck in my mini-muffin tin baked into the most beautiful, tasty nuggets. 

With a decent recipe and an idea under my belt, I got going with a second batch. I played up the "coconut" aspect with coconut oil and coconut flour as well as the Coconut Dream, and added a more "butterscotchy" flavour with some toasted maca. Since the "traditional" flavouring in doughnuts (nutmeg) was missing in Martin's recipe, I added some of that too, and a touch of ground chia and psyllium husk to help everything bind. With those additions, the dough went from being too wet to too dry!! While I added extra starch to the first mixture to "dry it out", I had to add a bit more Coconut Dream in the second. Since I used the last of my applesauce with the first batch, I used up a leftover ripe banana in its place (the recipe indicates it's to "replace 2 eggs"). Into the muffin tins the mixture went and I crossed my fingers!

In all honesty, I think I prefer the banana ones (second batch) to the originals. Not quite banana-bread flavoured, they have a nice sweetness that is accented with the simple cinnamon-sugar glaze I used. I wanted to fill some with my homemade blueberry jam but I forgot!

I'm sending these to Ricki's Wellness Weekend event. Check it (and the rest of her awesome blog) out!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Chocolate Raspberry Zucchini Cookies

So, did I tempt you with the possibilities of your own flavoured cocoa and chocolate chips yesterday? While I didn't get the chance to make Carla's brownies (mostly because I had no unsweetened chocolate and only a tiny amount of butter), I found a perfect use for my new goodies that also took care of a languishing zucchini in the crisper and the last of a tub of Greek yogurt! I spotted Two Peas and Their Pod's Maria's recipe for Chocolate Fudge Zucchini Cookies first on her Twitter feed and again on Pinterest, and it looked like the perfect marriage of everything!

Of course, I can't leave anything well enough alone - in addition to the raspberry laced chocolate and cocoa, I opted for a mix of oat and all purpose flours, tossed in some oats, used less sugar and more cocoa powder, and added a touch of honey to keep them chewy longer. It wasn't my intention to do all of that - but if you give my mind an inch it's taking about 40, 000 miles!

The good news is that the cookies turned out beautifully - chewy, rich, and packed with raspberry flavour! My mom (my dear taste-tester!) even took me out of a total dozy-funk in order to tell me that the one cookie I saved for her was all gone, and why hadn't I saved her more?!

Now, these cookies were made with my homemade Raspberry Cocoa and Raspberry Chocolate Chips - without those, they're just delicious, but plain, fudge cookies. Of course, if you have access to the "real stuff" Carla notes on her post, you don't need to go to all the extra fuss and bother. Either way, get that fruity goodness into your veggie-packed, fudgy cookies!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Raspberry Cocoa and Raspberry Chocolate Chips

Leave it to fellow blogging friends to create a bee in my baking bonnet! A few weeks ago, Carla (AKA Chocolate Moosey) mentioned that she had procured two rather delectable sounding ingredients from local producers and couldn't wait to start using them: raspberry flavoured chocolate chips and raspberry cocoa powder. I know, doesn't it sound like Heaven? The cocoa she found came from Pittsburgh's Triple B Farms while the fruity chocolate chips were sourced from a place called Windy Knoll Farm Market and Creamery.

I've never seen flavoured chocolate chips around me (except for occasionally mint), and certainly not flavoured, unsweetened cocoa, but the combination sounded too good to pass up. Besides, how hard could it possibly be to whip up my own mixtures of fruit and chocolate after all those other concoctions in my Chocolate Fest blitz? With a Ziploc of frozen raspberries, a bag of Dutch processed cocoa, a couple chunks of chocolate, flavouring oil and a sense of adventure I set out to see if it could be done.

And could it! I was so proud of myself that I lauded my success at making my own infused cocoa and chocolate chips all over the social media scene, and Carla was kind enough to even do a little blurb of my "how to guide" on her post for last week's Sunday Supper event. Her One-Pot Fudgy Raspberry Cocoa Brownies were adapted from Katie Workman's book The Mom 100 to use her new goodies, and now that I know how easy it is to make the specialty ingredients myself I can't wait to try out the brownies in my own kitchen! For more on the fudgy chocolate nummies, check out Carla's blog - and if you've got it in mind to try making your own flavoured cocoa and chocolate chips, read on below.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tangy Lemon Squares

Since I had my copy of the  Rosie's Bakery All-Butter, Cream-Filled, Sugar-Packed Baking Book out while I was making yesterday's Rustic Rhubarb Squares, I kept going with the theme of baking bar cookies - not least thanks to the Tart Lemon Squares recipe I spotted on the opposite page! The element that really drew me in was the fact that the recipe called for the juice of not one or two, but six lemons in with the typical eggy custard. It looked good - but where was the lemon flavour? Without any lemon zest going into the filling, the bars would just be sour-sweet custard on shortbread. But the rest of the mixture looked so fantastic that I had to try it out with my own twist!

To combat the minimal lemoniness in the original, I added the zest of all the lemons I'd be using for juice to the recipe (5 lemons' worth in the filling, the remainder in the crust). I had no use for an extra yolk after using it's white for glazing the base, so it went into the custard along with a spoonful of custard powder and a pinch of salt. I reduced the sugar slightly to enhance the brightness of the citrus too. In retrospect, I would have made a 3/4 batch of the shortbread for the base instead of the full amount too - since you can see in the photos that the filling isn't overly thick by comparison. Even with the too-thick crust, I was immensely pleased with what came out of my oven - it reminded me of the lemon bars we would buy from a roadside farm and bakery stand on summer road trips in my childhood, but more refined and (dare I say) better! They're not cloying at all, and actually help cut through the stodgy heat and humidity of the Summer air before a rainstorm.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Rustic Rhubarb Squares

We've got a monster rhubarb plant in our garden, which I love because not only do I not have to baby it in order for it to grow and come back every year, but the stalks are so incredibly versatile! I love it's tart, almost bitter bite in compote, pie, mincemeat, chutney, and even blondies - and when used in conjunction with the sweet, sticky fruits of Summer it's the perfect contrast of flavour and texture.  It's also a fairly nutritious thing to be getting in your diet - it's filled with the vitamins C and K, minerals potassium and calcium, fibre and a nifty little phytochemical called lindleyin which helps reduce hot flashes and regulate female hormones! The only downside to the nutrition in rhubarb is that the aforementioned calcium is bound up with oxalic acid. Luckily, cooking solves that problem - and I don't know about you but I'm not going out of my way to gnaw on a raw stalk anytime soon.

I've usually only used rhubarb in combination with other fruit, but was interested in trying out an application that let the vegetable (yup, it's a vegetable related to buckwheat!) speak for itself. As I paged through my copy of the Rosie's Bakery All-Butter, Cream-Filled, Sugar-Packed Baking Book, I came across a recipe of theirs for Rhubarb Bars. Nothing fancy, no other fruit, just a simple shortbread crust, piled high with fresh rhubarb in a light egg-flour custard. I modified Judy Rosenberg's recipe by adding vanilla and whole wheat flour to the base, dried pineapple sage to the filling and showering the lot with a handful of rolled oats for contrast. I brought them to a potluck with the slight concern that they'd be too sour for the host's two young children, but they were the first two to grab a piece and dig right in with thumbs up! That said, these are sweet (they are dessert!) but not too sweet, and I think they'd probably be a fantastic addition to any Summer gathering.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Italian Salami Pasta Salad with Lemon Parmesan Vinaigrette

It's a Civic Holiday here in most of Canada, which essentially means an excuse to give us all a long weekend in August because hey - we don't have a real holiday to give us the day off! We're spending our "extra day" finally finishing up the menial chores in the garden, basement, garage and kitchen, but I know a good amount of my fellow Canadians that are still living it up at the cottage, boat or at family gatherings and picnics. 

Yesterday, I shared one of the goodies we brought to my stepbrother's recent engagement party - Julia Child's Oeufs à la Diable. Since my mom is fairly well known in our family as being a wonderful cook (I know, I lucked out with a foodie for a mom), she was also asked to bring a pasta or potato salad to round out the already gratuitous spread - which included the aforementioned eggs, veal scaloppine, chicken in some sort of gooey cream sauce, bread, coleslaw, garden salad, antipasti, cocktail shrimp, steamed vegetables with olive oil and herbs, corn on the cob and a full dessert table featuring (amongst other things) gelato, cannoli and a three tiered cake. Plus a very well stocked bar (we're talking 2 cases of wine and 6 of beer in addition to the hard stuff). You'd think that they were serving a hundred (or two) people - in reality, only 75 were invited, and out of those a grand total of 41 came. Needless to say, we are now the grand recipients of a lot of leftovers! 

Thankfully, while the chicken and veal are a bit on the "rich and gloopy" side for everyday dinners (though my stepbrother took them for lunches all last week), we also got a full tray of veggies that my mom's been using for dinner and that I pureed into a soup for her lunches, as well as the leftovers of this pasta salad. I'm kind of proud of this one - its full of sauteed veggies, with relatively little pasta, and a touch of flavour packed black pepper hard salami that I had done a product demo for a few months back. It's also not a creamy salad - around here we're not huge fans of the mayo in general, so I whipped up a bright, lemony Parmesan vinaigrette that I adapted from Mountain Mama Cooks for the mixture instead. Not having any eggs, it was safe to keep out on the buffet with the rest of the bread and green salads, and it also lasts longer in the fridge as leftovers! With the meat, pasta and veggies, it's also a light meal in itself which is nice in the throes of Summer when you really want something cool for lunch.

While I never told my mom that the recipe wasn't from a cookbook but that I had written it (she has a "thing" about trusting my food around other people 0_o), she never asked - she just assumed one of the books I had for review was the source. Granted, mom has been incredibly generous with her palate, opinion, pantry and occasionally waistline when it comes to appeasing my foodie tendencies... but you'd think she'd be trusting my own recipes by now!

It's been a looooong time since I last participated in Ruth's blog event Presto Pasta Nights, but this salad was just so summery that I had to share. Be sure to check out her blog (she's host this week) on Friday for all the other noodley nosh!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

#CookingForJulia with Oeufs à la Diable #SundaySupper

My stepbrother recently got engaged to a beautiful, incredibly wonderful girl. It's tradition in both my stepfamily and hers to have several large gatherings along the way - beginning with the engagement party, followed by the wedding shower, stagette and stag parties, rehearsal dinner and finally the wedding itself! All of these events are nothing short of huge, both in terms of attendance and amount of food and drink consumed! Luckily, the couple are not overly fancy individuals, and I'm sure that if they could get away with it they'd have skipped most of the preamble parties and just dealt with the wedding itself.

But that's not about to happen! The moms are running the show these days, which means that all the assorted customs are being adhered to. Last weekend the engagement party went off with full pomp and circumstance, culminating in a partially catered, partially potlucked feast that spread over the entire afternoon and evening. I was supposed to attend, and like the Toronto Festival of Beer I was looking forward to the party, but unfortunately I hurt myself during the week at the gym and wasn't in the best of shape for travelling or socializing and I didn't want to be a downer on such a happy occasion. Instead, I contributed to the festivities as much as I could by helping my Mom make some of the dishes she was bringing, including her version of Julia Child's devlied eggs.

Since this week's #SundaySupper event is in honour of Julia Child's 100th birthday, our group is using the hashtag #CookingForJulia and sharing our favourite Julia dishes. While deviled eggs are certainly not a favourite of mine, no matter whose recipe it is (I hate the smell and taste of hardboiled eggs!), my stepbrother loves them, and my mom is a fan of pretty much anything Julia Child since I gave her a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking for Christmas two years ago. It was only natural that we break out this classic for an elegant party - even though the attendees were Italian, Greek and Macedonian for the most part (and none of them were French!).

Regardless of your nationality, it's hard to argue with a well made hors d'ouvre - and the Oeufs à la Diable are certainly that. I liked how unique Julia's recipe was, using a mixture of butter (of course!) and mayonnaise in the filling. Mom usually takes it a bit further in her preparation by using even less mayo in favour of a touch of olive oil and a hint of lemon zest, then I added my flair by piping the filling into the saved whites and finishing the lot with a sprinkling of paprika. For garnish, I carved some radishes to go into the tray for a change of colour and texture. I'm no veggie carver, but I liked how they looked and the platter was well received regardless!

Here is our list of fabulous Julia Child cooks... Bon Appetit!

#CookForJulia Breakfast

#CookForJulia Lunch

#CookForJulia Dinner

#CookForJulia Sides

#CookForJulia Desserts

#CookForJulia Wine Pairings:
  • Relishing Food and Wine; Thanks to Julia Child! by ENOFYLZ

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Chocolate Fest!

Chocolate is one of those divine foods that is unlike anything else in the universe. I have yet to find someone who isn't allergic to cacao and thoroughly detests it - not being an overly polarizing ingredient, there is a place on the "like / love" spectrum for everyone. I'm a "more bitter"-bittersweet or salty-bittersweet fan myself, opting for 70%+ plain or smooth cocoa-nut paste concoctions. My sister also likes "dark" chocolate, but closer to the 55-60% end of the line. Mom is good with pretty much anything chocolate, with bonus points if it has "stuff" in it like dried fruit, flavouring or nuts (her favourite bar is Cadbury Fruit and Nut Dark), and dad - well, like I've mentioned before, if you add peanut butter and / or bananas to it it's almost guaranteed to be a shoo-in.

Bittersweet Espresso Chips
So I figured it was long past due for me to combine a bunch of my "non-recipe recipes" for the random cocoa-laced creations that have emerged from my kitchen over the past few months. Most of them were created simply out of the need to use up the last of some chocolatey goodness after making a recipe calling for almost all of what I bought at Bulk Barn, while two also use some leftover cookies from making fudge. Then, being on a roll as I was, I made my own version of a bittersweet, slightly spicy hot cocoa mix that when mixed with unsweetened almond milk is like drinking a molten Taza disc (in the best way possible).

And now, without further ado, enjoy the Malted Milk Chocolate Chips, Butterscotch-Peanut Chocolate Chips, Bittersweet Espresso Chips, Chocolate Peanut Butter Shards, Peanutty - Chocolate Cups with a Crunchy Centre, Chocolate Drenched Cookie Sandwiches and Cacao - Chile Mix! Don't feel bad about indulging either - chocolate is good for you, remember?? Plus, if you make all these recipes, you'll burn off the calories you'll consume eating them... right?? The door to cocoa nirvana is open, and I've saved you a seat for the ride.

Chocolate Drenched Cookie Sandwiches

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Healthy Hermit Bars

Have you ever tasted a hermit cookie? You probably have, even if you didn't call it that. Chock full of dried fruit (usually raisins) and nuts, around here they're more commonly called Lassy Mogs. Lots of other names for essentially the same thing abound too: "Molasses Spice Cookies with Raisins", "Spice and Raisin Cookies" and even simply "Molasses Raisin Cookies" all describe the soft, spicy cookies sweetened (for the most part) with molasses and Demerara sugar.

Hermits have a history, too - said to date back to the late 1800's, New England sailors would find these packed for them on their journeys by their (clearly understanding!) wives because they traveled so well. Likely, the heavy spices could cover up any "edging on rancid" nut taste from extended storage, not to mention the economical and widely available molasses and tree nuts (usually walnuts, butternuts and hickory nuts) were a natural inclusion in many recipes. While probably not considered by these sailor wives, the bittersweet flavour from the molasses and raisins was probably enhanced greatly by the sea air they would be exposed to on the water - especially since salt was still a bit of a high-priced item on the store shelves.

Now, I love myself a good hermit cookie, but I am admittedly one of the laziest-slash-easily exhausted people that I know. I realize that cookies are fast, (usually) cheap, portable and easy to divide, but they can have the added hassle of extra utensils, chilling and the seemingly always-present worry around here that the end product will be too soft or crunchy, or spread all over the place because something wasn't quite right. I'm working on getting over my cookie anal-ness, but I will almost always choose to make a bar version if it's available. And luckily, with hermits, there is!

Since the batch was going to come with my mom on a work trip out East, bars made the most sense. Bars in a foil pan could avoid breakage, mess and eventual waste, and with the disposable pan Mom wouldn't have to worry about carting that back too. I "amped up" the healthy factor of these (already relatively nutritious) cookie-bars by using 100% whole grain flour, Omega rich flaxseed, almonds and walnuts, and magnesium rich molasses and Demerara sugar. To make them "workplace friendly" (plus its what my old hermit recipe called for) a shot of good strong coffee made it in too. I emptied my baker spice cabinet and went to town - concocting a rich, delectable, and dare I say - nutritious - coffee break treat.

While these aren't gluten free, they are vegan, and I'm going to pass the recipe along to the Vegan OR Gluten-Free Recipe Swap. This event is being hosted by My Vegan Gluten Free LifeConfessions of an Overworked Mom and This Flourishing Life and runs for the month of August.