Sunday, September 30, 2012

Toast Topper #11: Allspice Peach Butter (#SundaySupper)

I love simple food. Most of the time it's because I'm simply too lazy to cook something overly "involved" for just me (nobody else shares my super-restricted diet thankfully - wouldn't wish that on anyone!), but sometimes I really do like to just let one or two ingredients really shine.

I think of my mom's apple pie (I'm on an apple pie reminiscing kick these Sundays) which was literally crust (flour, shortening, salt, vinegar, water) and apples. That was it. No fancy-pants techniques, no caramel (though I hear it is delicious), no gooey starch-thickened binder - just apples. Likewise with my Tomato Confit, Soused Strawberries and Blueberry Butter - not much else is going on other than showcasing the main ingredient.

This always goes double (or triple) when a fruit or vegetable is in season here - our growing season is pitifully short, which means that local fruit and veggies are there and then they're gone in a flash. Finding ways to keep the goodness of everything lasting throughout the year usually means a mixture of freezing, canning and drying - from tomatoes to berries and grapes to apples and peaches. When I happened across a great deal on fresh "seconds" Ontario peaches at the farmer's market, I couldn't resist - I bought six pounds of them. I knew what I didn't eat right away wouldn't last very long, but I had a plan. Actually, two plans - this smooth, sultry butter and a killer peach jam which I'll share soon!

Join us, September 30th, 2012 as we share our delicious, mouth-watering recipes! Here’s a sneak peak at what everyone is bringing to our #SundaySupper table. Be sure to stay after dinner at 7pm EST as we share our recipes during our #SundaySupper live chat!

Here's our quick and simple lineup!

Breakfast, Starters, Butters and Jams:

Main Dishes:



Please be sure you join us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper. We’ll be meeting up at 7:00 pm (Eastern) for our weekly #SundaySupper  live chat where we’ll talk about our favorite 5 Ingredient Recipes! All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag, or you can follow us through TweetChat!  We’d also love to feature your apple recipes on our #SundaySupper Pinterest board and share them with all of our followers!

This is also submitted to Ricki's Wellness Weekend, Gluten-Free Monday and Gluten Free Fridays

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mochi with Nutella Strawberry Filling

While it is on my "bucket list" in this lifetime, I have to date never been to Japan. However, the land and it's diverse cultures and traditions are a constant source of wonder for me, and the food and festivals most of all. I first became aware of the glutinous rice concoction known as mochi growing up when we had a visiting teacher from Japan in my elementary school. Along with my first taste of "real" green tea (made with full-out ceremony) and miso soup, around Easter we were introduced to these small balls of chewy-soft dough wrapped around tiny, perfect strawberries: ichigo daifuku.

With so many of us in the class, we only got one little taste apiece, but I can remember being both enthralled and a little disturbed by the blend of tastes and textures. To my Western child's palate, the chewy yet mostly flavourless "skin" reminded me of the layer on the bottom of a bowl of Jell-O, which I liked for the most part. However, the traditional filling in these confections is strawberries wrapped in a sweetened red bean paste called anko - something I neither anticipated nor particularly enjoyed in my youth.

After her term with us ended, our Japanese teacher went home - taking with her most of the Japanese cultural experience our class had. Since then, I had been fascinated by Asian culture and tradition, and it was only recently that I finally convinced myself to try making these dainty treats at home.

Notice, I said try. I wanted to make my own twist on the traditional treat - instead of messing around with trying to get the sweet / savoury anko mixture right (even though I have a good recipe from the Bean by Bean cookbook), I opted for a middle layer that would be more or less universally loved: Nutella. Mixed with some hot chocolate mix and plain cocoa powder, I got a decent "dough" to coat my strawberries. However, I should have guessed after coating myself from here to Timbuktu in sticky chocolate goo and strawberry juice that the rest of the process wouldn't be any easier or cleaner! After making the baby-pink tinted skin dough, I came to realize just how hot it gets in the microwave. We're talking liquid sugar hot - with the stickiness that causes it to cling to, and continue burning, anything it comes into contact with. Mochi makers must have hands of iron in order to knead, flatten, wrap and smooth out the dough while it's still hot and pliable - it was all I could do to avoid tossing the whole lot (bowl included) in the trash.

While I did finally get six pieces done, they were nothing like the gorgeous, silky-smooth balls I see online and in Asian groceries. They were bumpy, almost clementine-peel like in appearance, and I worried about their edibility as a whole. What if I did something wrong and they were somehow still raw? What would they taste like? I stuck them in the fridge to firm up for a few hours, crossed my fingers and took them to my massage therapist, an adventurous foodie in his own right. As you can see, the cross-section looks exactly as I hoped it would: distinct layers almost identical to models of the Earth's core, mantle and crust. The Nutella was a decadently rich element in the middle of the two lighter sweet tastes of rice dough and strawberry, and the balls held their own in the fridge (though they were also delicious after being frozen and cut into quarters).

Have you ever made (or eaten) mochi or daifuku before? What did you think of it?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Toast Topper #10 - Pineapple Ground Cherry Jam

Can you believe it's almost the end of September? It seems like only yesterday that I was waxing poetic about the deliciousness of still-warm tomatoes and whining about the fact that our air conditioner had gone bust (though that was only the beginning of the month). But there you have it - this morning I had to rescue the last of the tomatoes on the vines because last night we had a touch of frost. Yes, frost!

The end of September also means the beginning of the major holiday season. October is a whole mess of events around here - between my grandmother and stepbrothers' birthdays (as well as the birthdays of two of my best friends from highschool!), Thanksgiving and Halloween it feels like every week there's something! Come November, it's fairly quiet, but that will be the major month of Christmas planning, shopping and (in some cases) wrapping. I'm starting to put together my "gifts to give" list already, which is packed with home made goodies from jars of jelly, tomato paste and pasta sauce to cookies, tarts and muffins! I've even got a few "mix-in-a-jar" treats in store, and have begun to scope out our discount grocery stores for boxes big enough to jazz up and turn into "gift baskets".

This year I'm also taking part in a weekly round up of Christmas / holiday treats on Meal Planning Magic. We're invited to make and post a treat each Thursday from today through to Christmas, all with a sweet edge! You can hit up the group on Twitter (#12WksXmasTreats) and gape at the gorgeous photos on Pinterest too.

The first week I'm bringing something sweet, tangy and tropical from my backyard - Pineapple Ground Cherry Jam! I really wanted to capitalize on the tropical flavour that my pineapple ground cherries had (even at the end of the growing season), so I combined them with pineapple tidbits (which always remind me of holiday ham), pineapple sage (which I grew last year and dried), agave nectar and a hint of ginger. I canned it (save for a few "taster" tablespoons!) and am going to give it out with homemade crackers.  

As is, the jam is perfect on your favourite toast or crispbread, but you can make it into jam tartlets or thumbprint cookies for an even sweeter edge! I'd suggest a coconutty thumbprint cookie or adding a few tablespoons of coconut flour to your tartlet dough, if you're going that route!

Pineapple Ground Cherry Jam
Makes 3 cups, 24 (2-tbsp) servings
200 g ground cherries
1 (14-oz) can pineapple tidbits in juice, undrained
1/2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 tbsp crushed pineapple sage (optional)
3 tbsp agave nectar
1 1/4 cups jam sugar (or 1 1/4 cups coconut sugar and 25 g [1/2 packet] pectin)

  1. In a large pot, combine the ground cherries, pineapple (with juice), ginger, pineapple sage and agave and bring to a boil.
  2. Cook 20 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Add the sugar (and pectin if using) and bring back to a boil, then boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Pour into a sterilized jar, seal and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.
Amount Per (2-tbsp) Serving
Calories: 62.5
Total Fat: 0.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 10.3 mg
Total Carbs: 15.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.1 g
Protein: 0.2 g

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Peanut Butterscotch Banana Bread Puddings

I love baking for my dad. It had been a while since I made a treat for him, and when I came across a Salted Caramel Banana Bread Pudding in my copy of Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts: Quicker Smarter Recipes by Alice Medrich I was won over by a combination of elements: first, the ingredients were easy to access, affordable and (above all) delicious. Second, bread pudding in general is dead-simple to whip up, and who doesn't have a few crusts of bread (or in my case, leftover panini buns) hanging around? Finally, the presentation of the puddings as individual desserts rather than one big casserole meant that I could scale it as needed and that leftovers wouldn't get that weird "film" most custards do when refrigerated. Whenever I think of bread pudding, I think of him, and knew that with a few tweaks to the recipe I could come up with something fantastic that was definitely to my dad's tastes.

Aside from adoring bananas and bread pudding (or anything custardy in general) my dad is also a big fan of butterscotch and peanut butter. While I know salted caramel is a "big thing" these days, I found a butterscotch sauce recipe in Medrich's book as well that I couldn't wait to try out. I took some major liberties with the mixture along the way, though, using coconut milk in place of the heavy cream, extra Scotch and peanut butter for the standard dairy butter. I was terrified that the whole thing would blow up in my face - but you know what? It worked! I got a silky smooth, dark and rich mixture that became the "magic" with the bread pudding mixture.

Since I did not have the 6-oz ramekins Medrich calls for in the book, nor could I find any, I dug up some old (oven safe) coffee mugs from the basement and used those. The slices of stale, whole grain panini bun that I used were the perfect size for the cups, and the flavour of the whole wheat lent an additional nuttiness that played off well with the peanut butter sauce. I tossed in some extra bananas just because my dad likes them, and the custard was cobbled together from the end of a carton of no-cholesterol egg substitute, Coconut Dream®, and a touch of caramel-flavoured stevia. All in all it was a rich, decadent dessert that somehow I can see being eaten for Sunday brunch... who am I to judge?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Double Apple Pot Pie for #SundaySupper

This is a pie that proved me wrong.

Remember how I mentioned back in my Grape and Ground Cherry Crumble Pie with Potato Pastry Crust post that the crust mixture would likely be too heavy to readily use as a topper? Well, guess what - I went ahead and did it anyway, and it worked! Granted, I took a few steps to make sure everything for this sweet little pot pie turned out well:  I chose a sturdier fruit (cooking apples) and rolled the top crust as thin as I could. When it baked up it was light, crispy and almost flaky, though I wouldn't dare say it was as good as my mom's (which uses shortening) or my Grandma's (which uses lard).

I took a different turn than usual with my apple filling as well - normally I just peel, slice and plop in the fruit, but this time I sauteed the apples in a dash of water first and then cooked them to a silky firm-but-tender state in a couple spoonfuls of Crab Apple Jelly. Because I was only making a small "pot pie" sized pastry (I was giving it to my Grandma who was having a few friends over), the bake time was a little less than standard, but I like the smaller serving size - it's cute and you don't have to think about leftovers! Since I had another apple and some "bottom of the jar" jelly on hand after the pie was in the oven, I did the whole saute thing again and poured it back into the jar for a "double apple" jam / pie filling - no waste!

This #SundaySupper event is all about the apple - check out the sweet and savoury offerings on the menu tonight!

Soups, Salads, Starters and Breads

Main Meals




Please be sure you join us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper. We’ll be meeting up at 7:00 pm (Eastern) for our weekly #SundaySupper live chat where we’ll talk about our favorite apple recipes! All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag, or you can follow us through TweetChat! We’d also love to feature your apple recipes on our #SundaySupper Pinterest board and share them with all of our followers!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Grape Simple Syrup and Grape Pancake Syrup

If you've ever made your own cocktails, mocktails or flavoured sodas, you've undoubtedly heard of the useful ingredient simple syrup. In it's pure essence, the syrup is just equal parts sugar and water, heated together just enough to dissolve the sweetener into suspension. The liquid sweetener mixes much better into other liquids, especially those that are cold or cool like most alcohols and juices.

Personally, I find the "original" simple syrup to be a bit, well, boring. I don't drink (which could be part of the problem!), but I do like making my own flavoured seltzers and jazzing up plain oatmeal. Both of these need something a little more unique than just sugar water (and before anyone goes there, I love fruit, maple syrup and brown sugar in oatmeal too), and when our Concord grapes were weighing down the vines I figured I'd try to make my own simple syrup with their juice instead of water!

Since I was going for depth of flavour (so much for a "simple" syrup), I decided to use a mixture of sugar and dark amber honey to sweeten. It tasted fantastic on it's own, and the tangy nature of the grapes was a great balance for the other super sweet ingredients. Still, it only took a tiny amount to bring forth the flavour and sweetness that I was looking for in my applications, but for cocktails I'm sure you can get away with more. I can just imagine spiking a mimosa or daiquiri with a shot of this - or even turning a "Tequila Sunrise" into a "Tequila Sunset"!

When my mom tasted the syrup as it was, she loved the flavour - "not super sweet but sweet enough" is how she phrased it. She then asked me if I'd be able to turn it into a syrup thick enough for pancakes or waffles! I told her I would try, and with a few tweaks I had "the best tasting pancake syrup" she'd had in a long time! I don't know about you, but I'll stick to my maple on flapjacks, but over ice cream or yogurt? Divine.

Grape Simple Syrup
Makes about 3 3/4 cups, 30 (1-oz) servings
2 tbsp water
1 1/2 lbs Concord grapes
3/4 cup water
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tbsp honey
  1. Place 2 tbsp water and the grapes in a saucepan, cover and simmer until the grapes have all popped and begun to disintegrate.
  2. Pour into a strainer lined with three layers of cheesecloth set over a large bowl. Allow to drain overnight.
  3. Place the juice into a saucepan and stir in the sugar and honey.
  4. Simmer until sugar dissolves, then pour into jars or bottles and store in the fridge.
Amount Per (1-oz) Serving
Calories: 45.3
Total Fat: 0.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 0.5 mg
Total Carbs: 11.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.1 g
Protein: 0.1 g

  • To make a syrup perfect for pancakes, waffles or ice cream, add 1/4 cup sugar to the finished simple syrup and bring to a boil.
  • Cook, stirring enough to keep from boiling over, for 5-10 minutes, until reduced to your preference (syrup will thicken slightly as it cools).
Amount Per (2-tbsp) Serving
Calories: 38.8
Total Fat: 0.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 4.3 mg
Total Carbs: 10.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.1 g
Protein: 0.1 g

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sugar-Free "Apple Cider" - #RecipeRedux

Apple cider is going to be pricer than usual, according to the market watchers. As much as I adore a warming, slightly spicy and sweet mug of it in the morning (better than coffee, in my opinion!), it's expensive enough, and no way am I paying double or more for my seasonal fix. Herbal tea is relatively cheap, but can be a little lackluster when you're looking for something as rich, sweet and tangy as mulled cider. I figured that I'd shell out for a cup at the orchard after a round of picking and that would be it.

Then I came across the blog Lexie's Kichen, and particularly this post for a Healing Sugar-Free "Apple Cider". Made with an apple-spice herbal tea, there's no actual apple juice in this at all, but gets sweetness from stevia and tang from raw apple cider vinegar. I figured I'd give it a try - after all, I already had some apple tea hanging around from last Fall and figured I should use it up! It took a few tweaks to get it to my taste, both by using a mix of powdered and liquid stevia as well as adding a dash of fresh lemon juice for a little more of a "rounded" flavour. Because I love caramel apple anything, I added a few drops of the butterscotch flavouring I had on hand to my first cup and was floored by how decadent it was. A sprinkling of cinnamon capped it off perfectly, and with the natural goodness in the vinegar and lemon juice it's also a delicious way to keep the Winter colds at bay too.

This month's Recipe Redux is all about our favourite ways to use fermented foods. Since the full-sour naturally fermented dill pickles I adore I only ever eat au natural, I thought I'd share the new favourite I found in this spicy, sweet and tart beverage.

Sugar-Free "Apple Cider"
Makes about 8 cups
8 cups water
4 apple cinnamon herbal tea bags (President's Choice is what I use and love!)
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (I used Bragg's Raw Apple Cider Vinegar)
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
4 (1 gram) packets powdered stevia extract
3 full droppers liquid stevia, to taste (I used NOW®'s alcohol free stevia glycerite)
1 tsp (1 small bottle) LorAnn's concentrated butterscotch or caramel flavouring
  1. Bring water to a boil and pour over the tea bags in a large jar or pitcher. 
  2. Cover and let steep at room temperature overnight.
  3. Remove the tea bags and stir in the vinegar, lemon juice, stevia powder and liquid and the flavouring.
  4. Reheat gently or serve cold (I like a sprinkle of cinnamon on top).

Not a significant source of calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbs or protein. Approx. 2.2% of the RDA for vitamin C per cup.

Also submitted to Foodie Fridays, Wellness Weekends and Gluten Free Fridays.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Toast Topper #9: Crab Apple Jelly

I don't consider myself a huge "jam" person. I'm not overly picky about what fruit goes on my toast or crackers, but since I don't eat them very often buying a jar often leads to waste. I do make a lot of it though, both for my mom (who takes it to work to have with her bread of the week) and for Christmas gifts. This year I had inspiration all over, but this particular jelly is packed with memories - both of my hometown and of my dad's mom!

For some reason I always think of two foods when I think of my paternal Grandma, and both of them had to do with preserving. The first one is pickles. For holidays, Grandma always puts out a dish of them along with tiny cornichons, and as a kid I remember going to a local community garden with her to pick the cucumbers she'd use for that year's batches. I don't believe she canned either her dills or her bread and butters, but those dill pickles were incredible - sour, spicy and definitely laden with garlic and dill. However, I detest sweet pickles - to me, they seem like something that evolved because a chef mistook sugar for salt and didn't want to toss the batch. You can claim that they have their place (though I'm hard pressed to think of where that is) but I'll take a pass. Give me my full sour Kosher dills and I'm good, thanks.

The other thing Grandma reminds me of, and the whole purpose of this post, was crab apple jelly. I don't know if she actually made it herself, but she always seemed to have it around the house. It was there that I had my first taste of it (on a Triscuit, likely with some Havarti or Cheddar) and fell in love. There is nothing better to put on a platter of "plain" crackers and mild to medium cheeses than a tangy crab apple jelly, along with a little bit of hot pepper jelly and some fig jam.

Crab apples also remind me a lot of my home town of Ajax. A lot of the streets there, especially the older ones, are lined with crab apple trees, and the city never seems to either spray them with pesticides or prune them. They also don't do anything with the fruit they bear every year - the relatively small trees always overburdened with apples by the end of the summer, which just falls off and rots, leading to an oh-so-wonderful aroma by mid October (apparently, they don't clean up the fallen fruit either). This year, I didn't want to see it all go to waste yet again, so on my way home from a gym class a few weeks back I pulled over onto a side street and filled one of my shopping bags with ripe, tiny apples. I had a recipe for jelly from The Old Farmer's Almanac Garden-Fresh Cookbook and used that - with great success. I wound up with a crystal clear, bright pink-red jelly that was perfectly set and neither too sweet or tart. I did opt to concentrate the juice after straining it, which really brought out the flavour of the fruit. If you're looking for a foolproof "first jam / jelly" to make, this is definitely one to look at!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Chunky Aztec Chocolate Granola for a Mexican #SundaySupper

I have to admit I'm not really a cold cereal fan. I love oatmeal (especially with either maple syrup and cinnamon or brown sugar and cocoa!) but "regular" cereal is too plain, crunchy and, well, cold in the morning. Mid afternoon I might swipe a handful of Cheerios or Chex for a snack but you'll never see me sitting down to a milk-topped bowl of cornflakes or Rice Krispies. Not only is it cold, but I detest milk and cereal together. I don't even put milk in my oatmeal!

However, I am a self proclaimed chocoholic. Especially when it comes to bittersweet chocolate paired with something salty or spicy. When I found this granola at my local Bulk Barn, I thought I had gone to Heaven - until I saw that it contained coconut, which unfortunately causes me to swell up like a giant red balloon at it's slightest touch (which is why you will find me wearing mid-arm length gloves if I'm working with it, or other cut nuts, in the kitchen). Granola is the one food I make an exception to my "fruit belongs with only fruit" mentality, and when there was chocolate and chunky, grabbable bites of cereal involved too, I knew I had to figure out a better mix on my own. After stumbling onto Attune Foods website, where I found this recipe by (who also authors the website, I knew I hit on a good base. Pretty much the entire contents of the pantry followed, culminating in a totally snackable, portable treat that was still mostly healthy!

Ironically, this slightly spicy, bittersweet mixture that I made up for this week's Mexican Fiesta #SundaySupper wound up being mostly stolen by my mom! A handful stirred into plain yogurt or applesauce was her treat of choice, but I did manage to get a little bit squirreled away to make cookies with (upcoming recipe, promise!). Be sure to check out the other Mexican-inspired treats below and be sure to say hi!

You'll also find our group on Twitter throughout the day on Sunday, September 16, and we’ll be tweeting up at 7:00 pm EDT for our weekly #SundaySupper  live chat. Just follow the #SundaySupper hashtag to find us, and feel free to chime in!  We’d also love to feature your Mexican Fiesta recipes on our #SundaySupper Pinterest board and share them with all of our followers.

Sopas (Soups), Ensaladas (Salads), and Entremeses (Starters)
La Comida (the food)
Postres (desserts)
Bebidas (beverages)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Banana Bread Bites

Are you a "bar" fan? It seems everywhere you go, someone is selling their latest compressed energy concoctions - from big name corporations to small grassroots startups. Two things they all seem to have in common, though, are the formula and the price. Whether the bars are enveloped in flashy foil or hand wrapped in cling wrap, they're all basically variations on pureed dates and nuts. For such simple ingredients, though, the price is astronomical. These suckers can be anywhere from $2 - $5 each - I mean really?

For kicks I costed out this whole batch of bites that I made: just under $3.50 total, for twelve pieces. Twelve! For under 30 cents each! Now those are "snack" size, not "meal replacement" size, but even if you bumped the serving size up and used 9 as your baseline (a filling meal swap FYI), that's still only 39 cents a square. With the economy these days, we can't afford to be paying 3-4x more (wholesale) - and this way you can make your own mixtures however you want, whenever you want - without ever wondering if cross contamination has happened at the plant or whether preservatives were added to a lower-quality ingredient.

I'm participating in Ricki's Wellness Weekend - check out her blog and all the other entries!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Goat Cheese Cannelloni

Now that it's September, life around here has settled down enough that we were finally able to have my stepfather's coworker and his family over for dinner. While dinner guests are in themselves a fairly involved shindig in terms of planning menus, shopping and storing the leftovers (particularly when, like my mom, one feels the need to make 3 entrees for 6 people), I had the task of helping to plan an offering that was safe for the husband, who had gout. While a strict "gout diet" is not needed for most cases, I wanted to keep the purines low enough that we could avoid an attack later down the road. I had a purine table left over from school (purines are the precursor to uric acid which aggravates and furthers gout), and between my mom and I we crafted a decent menu that catered to my stepfamily's Italian palate as well.

Salad with my mom's standard oil-and-vinegar, crusty bread (white, sadly, since protein-rich bran in whole wheat has more purines), grilled chicken for the kids, chicken cacciatore, white rice and this cannelloni meshed into a low purine (although regrettably low fibre and very carb heavy) meal. Our guests also generously supplied dessert from an Italian bakery - an assortment of cannoli and bignes that looked (and from what I heard, tasted) so decadent you just knew hitting the gym the next day would be a must.

Thankfully, everyone but my stepbrother only had a single piece of this rich, cheesy cannelloni rather than the three a standard serving entails. I adapted the recipe from BBC's Simon Rimmer to make it a bit more gout-friendly while keeping all the flavour and as much nutrition inside as I could. Slightly tangy throughout thanks to chevre in both the sauce and the filling, it's lighter tasting than your usual pasta casserole, and I added just shy of half a bag of Cookin' Greens spinach (it comes in 500g packages rather than your standard 10-oz bricks) for a bit of texture. Low fat cottage cheese and yogurt rounded out the rest of the filling and the whole thing got topped off with shredded Mozzarella and a smattering of halved cherry tomatoes. The cherry tomatoes were greedily snatched up by the two boys after the pan came out of the oven since they became sweet and gooey, narrowly avoiding burning themselves! While my mom was concerned that the kids wouldn't like the spinach or goat cheese, not a single complaint was uttered - in fact I heard "yum" (literally) more than once!

I'm sending this fantastic tubular treat ( ;-) ) to Ruth's event Presto Pasta Nights!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Grape and Ground Cherry Crumble Pie with Potato Pastry Crust

Ever eaten a ground cherry? If you haven't, you're not alone - I'd never even heard of them until a few years ago, when I came across a packet of seeds at the Urban Harvest store downtown. They had some fruit in a bowl to sample too, so I took a taste - and was hooked on the tangy, semi-sweet taste reminiscent of a more tropical cherry. I bought seeds for a variety called "Cossack Pineapple", which was supposed to have a flavour similar to the tropical fruit, and sowed them last summer.

The plants were an abysmal flop. As is always the case with heirloom and organic gardening, it was a crapshoot at best - and the timing and climate just didn't cooperate with the fragile baby plants. But no matter. This year I tried again, and was rewarded with lots of them, all extremely productive and netting me not only the occasional handful I was planning on enjoying au naturale, but bowls of the fruit (also called "husk cherries" or "cape gooseberries") - more than I could eat at a time. I knew the fruit is commonly made into jam or compote, but I wanted to try baking with them, especially since I had a handful of Cabernet grapes from our vineyard to use up too (I did make jam like last year with the Concords though).

When I was setting up to review my copy of Vicki's Vegan Kitchen, I spotted a rather unique looking pastry dough that was made with mashed potatoes and olive oil with just a hint of flour, rather than traditional butter or lard. With lots of local potatoes from the farmer's market on hand, I decided to give the recipe a try, but with a sweeter touch, and use it as the base for a grape and ground cherry pie of some kind. The dough was incredibly tender and soft, but easy to work with thanks to rolling it between sheets of waxed paper and flipping it into the pie pan. Since the potatoes do make it more dense than your standard pastry, I didn't want to use it for a topping on such a delicate filling. Instead, I whipped up a basic oatmeal crumble and used that instead. I also tried using baked, mashed sweet potatoes, and it was remarkable: a perfect low fat, naturally sweet crust that I can just picture playing host to apple, pecan or pumpkin pie this fall. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cookies... Makes Sense to Me!

No recipe tonight (tomorrow... fingers crossed!) but I just had to share this perfectly logical line of reasoning I found on Jen's latest post on Juanita's Cocina (Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies…and How Big is TOO Big for a Cookie?):

How big is too big for a cookie?
I’m of the mind that there is no such thing as a cookie that’s too big.
I mean, think about it.
If you can’t finish it at one sitting, you’ll still have more cookie later.
If you can’t fit it in one hand, that means a double-fisted cookie experience.
If your mouth can’t fit around the cookie to take a bite, you can break off custom bite-sized pieces.
More cookie=always a good thing.

I agree! Do you?

Be sure to take a look at Jen's post for Levain Cookies, or if peanut butter's more your thing try Carla's latest: Peanut Butter-Stuffed Chocolate Cookies! Caramel fiends (I'm looking at you, Dad) will appreciate the Alfajores from Family Foodie as well.

What's your favourite cookie?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Allergy - Free Zucchini Bread

After making the Brown Rice Cream the other day, the first thing I wanted to do was start experimenting! Luckily, these days I'm at no loss for inspiration thanks to the array of cookbooks in my "to-review" pile, and when I found a recipe in Colette Martin's Learning to Bake Allergen-Free: A Crash Course for Busy Parents on Baking without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts
that used both rice milk and the dirt-cheap zucchini the local farmers were trying desperately to sell at the market I knew immediately I had to try it out.

Since the book only called for a vague "gluten free flour blend", I opted to make my own mixture instead of going out to buy a premade one. Not only was this a cheaper option (since I have an arsenal of flours in my pantry) but I find the commercial mixes to be very "bean heavy" and dense in most baking applications. I added a dash of cinnamon and cardamom to the batter too, since there was no spice at all in the original recipe, and since the finished loaf was still more of a a "white" or "vanilla" cake that happened to have zucchini in it than your standard spice-laden quick bread I added a cinnamon-sugar drizzle for a bit of extra "oomph".  

In the end, all the little tweaks and twists I made coupled with an already fantastic formula to create a truly delicious dessert. The girls at my hair salon whom I served it to told me that they'd never know it was allergen-free if I hadn't said anything - and a few of the ladies who had children at home loved that the only real indication of the vegetable at all were the green flecks, which can be eradicated by simply peeling the zucchini!

Allergy - Free Zucchini Bread
Serves 12
2/3 cup chickpea flour
2/3 cup sorghum flour
2/3 cup brown rice flour
1/2 tsp guar gum
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
pinch nutmeg
1 tbsp enerG egg replacer (or 2 eggs, eliminate the water)
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup rice milk (I used my Brown Rice Cream)
1 tbsp pure vanilla
1 large zucchini, finely shredded

3 tbsp icing sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 - 2 tsp water

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a 9x5" loaf pan.
  2. Whisk together the flours, guar gum, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg, set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the egg replacer powder, water, oil, rice milk, and vanilla until well combined.
  4. Beat in the flour mixture until smooth, then add the zucchini and beat in.
  5. Bake 55 - 60 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes in the pan, then carefully un-mould onto a wire rack and cool completely.
For glaze:
  1. Whisk together the icing sugar and cinnamon, then drizzle in the water until a thick but pourable mixture is achieved.
  2. Drizzle over the cooled cake and let set. 

Amount Per Serving 
Calories: 226.0
Total Fat: 9.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 201.0 mg
Total Carbs: 32.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.8 g
Protein: 3.0 g

Linked to #glutenfree Fridays Recipe Party #4

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Brown Rice Cream

Some of the time I see recipes that look amazing in every way except that they call for some sort of cream. A lot of the time the people I bake for can't have nuts or gluten either, and since I drink almond milk usually buying a whole carton of the less allergenic rice milk is cost prohibitive - especially if the recipe calls for only a half cup or so. We do, however, buy a lot of brown rice around here, and we always have leftovers when my mom makes stir-fries. Rather than throw out tons and tons of it, or let it go rancid (the stepfamily doesn't believe in leftovers and apparently has never heard of fried rice), I figured I'd do something useful with it and create a cream substitute at the same time.

Unlike the more watery commercial rice milk, this version is as thick as heavy cream and works in any baking application requiring it. It doesn't whip, obviously, and I haven't tried it in caramel making yet but it's on my to-do list! My guess is that for caramel adding a tablespoon of coconut oil to the finished "cream" would prevent it from curdling. If you'd rather drink your rice milk, simply dilute the finished cream to your preference!

Brown Rice Cream
Makes about 2 cups of "cream" which can be diluted for a beverage if you like
1 cup cooked brown rice
3 1/4 cups water, divided
pinch salt
1 vanilla bean, split (optional)
1 packet vanilla-flavoured stevia (optional)
1/4-1/2 cup additional water
  1. In a saucepan, bring all the ingredients to a simmer.
  2. Partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes. Remove the vanilla pod if using.
  3. Scrape/pour mixture into a blender, add 1/4 cup water and puree until completely smooth.
  4. Add the additional 1/2 cup water if necessary to blend - it should be liquid but thick.
  5. Let stand 45 minutes - 1 hour.
  6. Line a strainer set over a bowl with cheesecloth and pour the blender mixture in. Let drain, discard the solids.

Amount Per Serving (1 cup)
Calories: 108.0
Total Fat: 0.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 5.0 mg
Total Carbs: 22.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.8 g
Protein: 2.5 g

Linked to #glutenfree Fridays Recipe Party #4

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Olive Semi - Sourdough Boule

One of  the last "great hurrah's" of Summer my mom and I share is our farmer's market circuit. We usually start off fairly tame and close to home, checking out the two that happen to run weekly in our town, and they're a great place to pick up the produce that we'd normally be shelling out for at the supermarket. Granted, it's not always a cheaper option, but the quality and experience is more than worth the extra dollar. Plus, there's always samples!

But we'd be missing out on a lot if we didn't get down to our two favourite Toronto markets at least once a Summer too. First off, we head on down to the Brickworks to see what's on offer from Vicki's Veggies, the cheese purveyors from Best Baa Dairy and Monforte Dairy, and buy probably my favourite mushrooms ever at the Fun Guy Farm stall. Even though it's usually only about 10AM when we leave there, I still always make sure to get my stevia-sweetened lemonade too - it is way too good to pass up and it's only once a year!

After our jaunt to the Brickworks, the normal progression of events is to head on down to the city centre to visit the most famous of the Toronto markets - the St. Lawrence! We love it for their delis (especially the pickles at Scheffler's!) and their huge assortment of fish and seafood, fresh and looking just as good as when the boat brought them in. But downstairs, mom's resolve is tested in no small way! That's where you'll find Stonemill Bakehouse's shop, and when you first walk into the vicinity the aroma that hits you is nothing short of divine. Because the bread (and pastries!) are just that good, if you don't swipe up what you want at the beginning of the day, you're likely leaving without it at the end.

That's exactly what happened to my mom, which (as she put it) was a blessing in disguise since otherwise she'd have left with the whole store! After having been tempted by the (apparently) amazing olive loaves at St. John's Bakery in the Brickworks (I say apparently because I've never tried it, abhorring both olives and cilantro!), and finding none at the St. Lawrence, she still couldn't get it out of her head a week later! I decided that I'd make her one that would be a little less guilt-inducing than an all-white flour loaf but with all the flavour and texture of the artisan creation. Whole wheat bread flour and a little sourdough starter was my jumping-off point, which I added cornmeal, potato flour, an instant yeast booster and some honey to before packing it full of olivey goodness with the fruitiest olive oil I could find in the house along with two types of olives. About half the total olive content was your standard deli Kalamatas, the rest were dried Botija olives that I found on the olive bar packed in olive oil. It was a royal pain to pit them all (once I found out that the "pitted" and "with pits" sections in the olive bar at the store had been mixed up) but the end result? Gold.

I mixed up a fairly moist dough with the simple ingredients and decided that it would fit best as a boule, to maximize the crust potential. I also opted for a bit of steam in the beginning, and if my pizza stone hadn't broken the last time I tried to heat it to 450F I would have used that! Even then, the loaf came out looking and smelling like any other artisan bakery's offering, and according to my mom it was my best loaf yet!

I'm sending this to Susan's YeastSpotting event this week as well as this month's Bake Your Own Bread round-up, and humbly suggest you use Sunday's Tomato Confit to enjoy it!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Very Red Velvet Brownies

So, do you have your Labour Day dinner plans all set out? BBQs? Picnics? Sports events? Avoiding the whole shindig all together because oh-my-goodness-school-starts-tomorrow-and-I'm-still-working-on-yesterday? As far as I can tell around here, especially given our lack of air conditioning situation right now, we'll probably be sweating it out over grilled something on the back patio. Regardless of what you're doing, it's a great day to enjoy just being off of work for a Monday and spending time with your family. And you know food (ideally with minimum work) is going to be involved!

Dessert is often left to the local ice cream shops, grocery store bakery departments or eschewed all together for Summer "do's", especially when it's still hot and sticky outdoors and everyone's avoiding the stove like the plague. But those options aren't necessarily great for the September-though-Fall waistline either, if you (like so many of us) have been indulging in one too many ice cream sundaes, lemon squares or cocktails over the season. I can't call something a meal without a little something sweet, though, and you do need something a little decadent to enjoy with your fresh fruit salad (especially when there are kids around). So I suggest something classic, bittersweet and well loved all over - brownies! Specifically, red velvet brownies.

But wait, didn't I just say all that stuff about healthiness and speed and ease? Well, yes. But these are all those things - and you can even bake them in a toaster or convection oven so you're not boiling up the whole house! These brownies are not only gluten free, refined sugar free and nut free, but they're vegan, packed with nutrients and under 120 calories a piece! I was inspired by a recipe from a transplanted fellow Canadian - Kris of Munchin with Munchkin - and changed it up to use leftover cooked adzuki beans, roasted beets, raspberries and fruit laced chocolate chips as well as cutting the sugar down with stevia and lessening the "grainy" texture of using all flax-meal as a flour. The result was fudgy, slightly fruity and while my mom loved them (mostly because she loves chocolate anything, and fruity chocolate even more), even the "butch", doughnut and pizza guys at my stepbrothers' mechanic shop proclaimed them delectable! I didn't tell them what was in the mix though (and I suggest that unless the kids eating these - and they will - are used to "healthy ingredients", you do the same), but the empty tray spoke for itself!

So they're healthy, we know that. But what about easy? And avoiding the kitchen? And enjoying outside while the living's still good? Well, I have an answer for that too - the food processor. No need to pre-whisk dry and wet, just puree the beans, beets and berries, throw in the cocoa, stevia and sugar, then follow it up with the remaining ingredients. Voila: one (dishwasher-safe) thing to clean, no muss no fuss!

I'm sending these incredibly yummy squares to Ricki's Wellness Weekend this week. Be sure to stp by, say hi and check out the other goodies!