Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Gingerbread Pumpkin Seeds

I know what you're thinking - Sarah, you just did spiced pumpkin seeds! And I know. I did. With sugar and cinnamon even. But these are different - and if you're afraid of these tasting anything like their former counterparts (including the Kettle Seeds from years ago), try them first and see. Especially if you're hankering for Christmas cookies already.

My sister carved two pumpkins for Hallowe'en two weekends back, since she wouldn't be here to carve with the rest of us and she was making up for a couple years without a pumpkin at all (oh the joys of being away at school). Last weekend, the rest of us popped over to a local farm to pick out our own gourds, and with four of them hollowed out we had a plethora of seeds! Being the cheap frugal person I am, I couldn't just let perfectly good ingredients go to waste. I managed to scavenge a few cups of them before my stepdad got to eating them raw, since I wanted to do another batch of cinnamon sugar ones, but halfway through mixing up the spice blend I changed my mind. I was thinking of visiting my old elementary school soon, and one of the teachers there is a huge fan of all things ginger. What better way to combine the seasonal and soon-to-be-seasonal aspects of Fall and make gingerbread seeds?

Little sister did a zombie pumpkin and a Cheshire cat-like one
I tell you, if it's even possible, they smelled better in the oven that the other ones, and are packed with flavour - with less sugar to boot. The lower level of sugar also lowers the propensity of the delicate seeds to scorch, so win win!

I'm passing these on to Gluten Free Fridays, Foodie Fridays, Frugal Food Thursdays, and Gluten Free Mondays. Enjoy, and Happy Hallowe'en!

My pumpkin, little miss Dishy

Monday, October 29, 2012

Canned Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

One of the benefits of learning to preserve various incarnations of seasonal food is the ability to enjoy the peak flavours of warm-weather produce in the dead of Winter. While I know the glorious heat and sunlight of Summer is long since past, and the seemingly never ending months of cold, dark and dreary snow and slush are just around the corner, cracking open a jar of June or July's tomatoes or jam brings all the Summer lovin' back into the kitchen.

While I did can a variety of different tomato recipes this year (and yet have only posted two - bad me!), probably the most versatile of all is the simplest - oven roasted cherry tomatoes, packed in their own juices and water-bath processed. Two ingredients (the other one being citric acid for safe canning) and roughly 2 hours is all it takes! The coolest part is that you can do this even with off-season tomatoes, since the roasting brings out the pure candy-like sweetness of the fruit and canning them (rather than freezing or worse, refrigerating) locks in that flavour for months on end.

Pop the top on a jar in the middle of February and make some tomato soup (I loved this one before going dairy free, but my Blackened Tomato Soup is fabulous too) or toss the little gem-like tomatoes with rice, pasta, vegetables or grilled protein. Heck, you can even do what my Mom does most Sunday mornings and make a combination of "egg in a nest" and "eggs in purgatory" that we term "eggs the way somebody else's mother used to make them":

  • Make toast, butter both sides lightly and tear into pieces. 
  • Place in a skillet over medium heat until you can smell the buttery goodness, then crack an egg over the toast and cook until mostly set.
  • Flip the lot and pour in about 1/4 cup diced or canned cherry tomatoes per piece of toast. Add salt, pepper (including chillies) and herbs to taste.
  • Cook until the tomatoes are hot and egg is over-medium.

Doesn't that sound delicious? And with a tomato recipe this simple there's no excuse for sad tomatoes in January no matter what the cooking application! The jars, sealed properly, have a shelf life of 12-18 months in a cool, dark place.

Submitted to Gluten-Free Mondays and Foodie Friday

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Nutella Stuffed Black Bean and Banana Cookies for a Spooky #SundaySupper

I love Halloween. At least, I love the "neo-traditional" aspects of Halloween - the pumpkin carving, the dressing up, the little kids running from house to house as the parents amble along behind, catching up with each other in gosh knows how long, the frenetic "dump and sort" of the pillowcases and plastic buckets onto the living room floor and of course the month-long candy-saturated diet, which finished just in time for Santa Clause to leave a few sweets in the stockings. These days, Halloween is a lot more demure and commercialized - it's been years since I've seen a homemade costume out on the streets, a lot of parents are glued to their children's side the entire night as if paranoid that a shadow will snatch them away (a few occasions we've seen parent's take the candy for their kids at our door), and it's not uncommon to see houses - mine included *sigh* - with hundreds of dollars worth of decorations littering the front yard. Me? I'm happy with a few bedsheet ghosts and netting cobwebs hanging from the trees and a couple candle-lit jack o' lanterns on the steps.

I guess you can say I'm not much into the "horror" factor of Halloween either. I can live my entire life free of images of gratuitous violence, blood and gore, thank you very much. To me, there are things in real life that are far more terrifying. Being trapped in my own body, unable to move or respond to anything despite my brain being completely awake and alert is one of them. Being forced to remain dependent on others to simply live in a home, eat and work is another. The latter of those scenarios is, to me, still a very real, very frightening prospect - all it would take is one medical setback, a few bad spells with contaminated "safe" foods or restaurant meals, and three years of hard work to regain my footing as a somewhat "normal" adult would be out the window. The risks and hassles of maintaining a safe, separate and often very "different" menu from everyone else in the household and those families I visit for holidays are exhausting and turn me right off from even bothering to acknowledge a celebration at all.

Some readers, especially those with food allergies, can relate to this. Those with any sort of sensitivity issue, especially those surrounding food or scents, have similar challenges during holidays and events involving food. And when you think of a holiday like Halloween, packed with potentially allergenic candy and chocolates, plunked smack dab in the middle of Canadian Thanksgiving and the December holiday blitz, kids that are allergic to anything in the "Top 8", or who are vegan, don't have much to look forward to.

Well, I have some sweet treats today that can help out at least some of the fellow allergy sufferers out there this Halloween! Not only are these cookies I adapted from Green Kitchen Stories ridiculously decadent, but they're gluten- and egg-free. They're also packed with protein and fibre to help kids of all ages full and raring to go with Trick or Treating energy for hours. I began to make the dark, chewy chocolate cookie dough with the same basic elements as David did, but decided partway through taking out the ingredients that I was not about to open a can of beans to use one piddly cup (and yes I said beans - don't worry!). From that point on, things just started snowballing one after the other, and suddenly a fairly standard chocolate-chocolate chip drop cookie turned into a double-Nutella, gooey-stuffed, banana-riddled creation fit for even the most critical chocoholic. Due to the nature of the beast that is the chocolate-hazelnut manna, the cookies are not vegan, dairy free or tree nut free, but they are still sans gluten, eggs, peanuts, fish, and shellfish. If you need / want, vegan / corn free swaps for the Nutella and hot cocoa mix are certainly available, or you can make your own. I used what I had in the pantry!

I thought I had submitted my post earlier this week to the #SundaySupper Trick or Treat roundup, but apparently this old brain o' mine is on par with some of the finer zombies out there. But, that's not to say I'm not joining the party on the sidelines! Everyone's invited, so by all means break out the costumes a few days earlier and get ready for a howling good time!

On the menu for our Trick-or-Treat #SundaySupper Halloween Party:

Bewitching Brews

Ghoulish Gruel

Haunted Snacks

Spooky Sweets

Please be sure you join us on Twitter throughout the day, this Sunday (October 28th) during #SundaySupper. We’ll be meeting up at 7:00 pm (Eastern) for our weekly #SundaySupper live chat where we’ll talk about all things Halloween. All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag, or you can follow us through TweetChat. We’d also love to feature your favorite Halloween recipes on our #SundaySupper Pinterest board and share them with all of our followers, too.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Starry Night Cookies

I do some of my best thinking in the middle of the night. It's a side benefit of being a chronic insomniac - I can't sleep because my brain won't shut up but at the same time, I have never written better poetry, short stories and even blog posts at another time. The other thing I do when lying awake at night is write recipes and draw pictures of how I want things to look. Not physically, mind you - especially when it comes to drawing, I'm not that skilled - but in my mind everything is perfect.

It was in the middle of the night that I came up with these cookies. Originally devised to use up some silver dragees I had in my decorator's supply cache, it snowballed into a dark chocolate confection laced with malted milk powder and studded with the tiny silver-sugar balls. Nice and chewy, with the tiniest bit of "puff" to the centre and a nice crackle between "stars", I used both Dutch-processed, super-dark cocoa and a touch of black paste food colouring to get that real "black" background. The malt powder is there but not the dominant flavour - I guess you can say it's like a hint of all the good things from childhood waiting in the shadows. Of course, the dragees add visual impact but also a delicious crunch - lighter than, say, nuts, but still noticeable.

I brought these with me to a business meeting this week and they were loved by the other members of the team. None of them pegged "malt" as a flavour but some did mention them tasting similar to "mom's"! I'm a little behind in my usual posting for this week's roundup for 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats, but as they say, better late than never!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

What was your favourite breakfast cereal as a kid? Plain Jane, unsweetened Cheerios, Rice Krispies and Chex? Middle of the road  Mini Wheats and Frosted Flakes? Or the candy-stuffed, dessert like Lucky Charms, Cookie Crisp, Reese's Puffs and Trix?

I was never a huge cereal fan at all growing up - at least when it came to eating it for breakfast. But I snacked on the plain stuff like nobody's business, and thought I'd never fall in love with the sweeter types until I tasted Cinnamon Toast Crunch at a friend's place.

Oh. My. Gosh. Now, I love cinnamon raisin bread, especially toasted with lashings of cultured butter, but I never thought that same flavour could make it into a cold, dry cereal. It was sweet enough to matter (and count as a decent snack / ice cream topping), but not cloyingly gross like the candy-stuffed varieties out there. I don't think I'd ever be able to have it for breakfast though (definitely not with milk - milk in cereal is nasty no matter what common practice is ;-) ). Like I said, I'm just not a cereal for breakfast person.

Snacks, on the other hand, I thoroughly endorse and love. My sister, home for the weekend from university, wanted to carve a pumpkin for Hallowe'en this year since she missed out on her last two while in a different school 4 hours away, and on the weekend we picked up two of them from the local farm. Being the cheapskate frugal being that I am, I didn't want to see the innards go to waste when there is so much flavour potential! I found a promising, vegan and gluten free flavour idea on The Gluten Free Herbyvore and knew it was exactly what I had to make with those saved seeds! Roasted pumpkin seeds are naturally crunchy, they're nutty, and are a wealth of zinc, magnesium, manganese and tryptophan - no fortification necessary! Giving them the cinnamon sugar treatment gives them a taste reminiscent of the best cinnamon toast ever, just better (and cheaper) for you!

Submitted to Gluten-Free Monday #5

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Lighter Granola Cookies for an Orange #RecipeRedux

While orange may be the colour of autumn, I always think of the late summer peaches first. Really, the colour of the fruit itself (either flesh or skin) is anything but the Crayola crayon, with the exception being the aristocratic "white" peach. No, to me, peaches are orange through and through, and when I was at the market the other day I was shocked to see local peaches the size of my fist! I had no idea that they'd be available this late in the year, but they made me think of the peach butter I had sitting in the fridge after I made my grandma's carrot cake. 

Besides muffins, I couldn't think of anything to use this delicious spread in - until I stumbled across Ari's Candy Corn Oatmeal Cookies while looking for a way to bake with the finicky candy! Her recipe used apple butter to replace some of the fat, so I used the rich, rusty-orange peach variety I had instead. I took out the eggs in favour of ground flax, but kept the hint of good old fashioned salted butter for richness. Oat flour made up the bulk of the dough and in lieu of adding oats, I swapped in my Chunky Aztec Chocolate Granola

While the dough tasted fantastic - the slightest hint of peachiness playing off the chocolate and nuts - they were very soft, almost soggy, after their time in the oven. I am loath to throw anything away, so after cooling them completely I gave them the "biscotti" treatment to see if it worked. It did! The cookies were still soft and a little cakey, but far more akin to a cookie than before.

This month's #RecipeRedux event is all about things orange. Markets are packed with pumpkin, carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes right now, all stuffed with carotenoids, other antioxidant compounds and a hefty dose of flavour. Peaches are, in my mind, still in the "orange" colour family, and a good source of all three of those health and taste components too!

What do you think? Are peaches orange to your eyes?

Gluten - Free Carrot Cake Doughnuts for #SundaySupper

Doughnuts around here are like ice in an igloo - everywhere. Not only do we have the mother of all doughnut and coffee shops - Tim Hortons (although now they're trying to become a "jack of all trades" like McDoodles) - but now that I have my handy dandy doughnut pan I've been popping them out whenever I get the chance. I guess you can say I've fallen in love with a slightly healthier alternative... though like all things you can warp that out too!

I also adore carrot cake - and since I was making carrot cake for my grandma's 80th birthday party I was already in the "groove". But I didn't want to just make a carrot cake batter and bung it into the doughnut pan. For one thing, the batch of cake is huge compared to a tiny 6-hole doughnut pan. Second, while I did "healthy" the recipe up a bit (it's forthcoming, promise!), it still had eggs and some gluten-containing, white flour (neither of which is bad in moderation!). So, for this week's #SundaySupper (#BakefortheCure with Chantal) I wanted to bring something that almost everyone can enjoy - a gluten free, vegan baked doughnut with all the taste of carrot cake but are just sweet enough to be a treat! While they're delicious au naturale, when I glazed them with an orange-lemon and powdered sugar glaze with the barest hint of nutmeg... divine! 

Chantal and #SundaySupper have come together to encourage everyone to bake for someone who has been affected by cancer or someone in the medical profession who makes a difference in the lives of cancer patients. Chantal is offering  will be 20% OFF of ALL Chantal Pie dishes on . BAKE4CURE must be entered at checkout to receive the pie dish discount. The coupon discount code is active October 16, 2012 through October 30, 2012. 

Here's what the recipients of the Chantal pie plate cooked up:

And here are the rest of us who baked for a cause!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dark Chocolate, Beet and Cherry Muffins

 I'm on a dark chocolate and cherry kick. I can't help it, especially since neither ingredient, when carefully chosen and of high quality, is overly sweet. Unlike my fellow schoolmates back in my elementary school days, milk and white chocolate held no allure, nor did your standard candies and chips. Nope, from day one I was a semisweet-lover at minimum - and if the chocolate was a decent quality, plain 70 or 80% cacao even better.

As I grew older I slowly broadened my experiences with cocoa and chocolate, but always kept it fairly close to the original decadence I fell in love with. These days, I'm also fond of adding the earthy richness of other natural ingredients like beets and whole grains to a smooth cocoa base, which is probably why I love chocolate beet cake (with spelt or barley flour these days) and oatmeal with cocoa and brown sugar so much!

When I was paging through Home Grown Harvest a few weeks back, I spotted this creation and knew I had to put it on my baking shortlist. For a little bit less guilt-inducement, not to mention a ton more flavour and lasting moisture, I used whole wheat pastry flour, some beet infused cocoa (made with the same idea as the raspberry cocoa), home-dried cherries that I soaked in orange juice, homegrown beets and ground flax. I even used the old-school (but effective) trick of swapping pureed local apples for half the oil too. In the end, I had some indulgent, yet somewhat healthy vegan treats to take to the girls at my hair salon - and since I made a double batch I froze half of them for Christmas gifties! 

I haven't forgotten about this week's roundup for 12 weeks of Christmas Treats (#12WksXmasTreats)! I'm sending in these luscious chocolate muffins, perfect for any "midnight snack" or "lunch" buffet table. Be sure to check out the other offerings and say hi to the others planning ahead for the holidays!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dark Rye with Fruit and Spicy Cacao

I love fruit of almost any kind. chances are, if there's a fruit platter out at a party, I'm filling my plate more than once and offering to take home the leftovers. But, I have a confession - in most circumstances, I absolutely abhor fruit with or in anything. There are exceptions, of course, like banana bread, pies and some sweet things like apple squares, but in general I like my fruit on it's own.

 My mom, on the other hand, is the antithesis of my "fruit-no-touchy" rule: the more things she can add it to the better! Like me, she's a chocoholic, and she's a hearty "peasant-style" bread fan too, so when it came time to figure out what I could bake up for her for this year's World Bread Day (7th edition!) I looked into my freezer and baking stash for something to really shine. I came across some black cherries I had frozen earlier in the year, and immediately thought of the cacao nibs and rye flour in the cupboard.

Chocolate and cherries are one of the glaring cases of the "exception to the rule" I mentioned above. Provided they're fresh, sour cherries dipped at home into quality bittersweet chocolate that's barely allowed to set before being popped into my mouth - I've tried storebought and restaurant versions and they just don't compare to that experience.

With the cherries, cacao and rye flour, I began to build my vision. Ground coffee and some unsweetened cocoa came into play, which made me think of my Chunky Aztec Chocolate Granola. That, of course, meant Demerara sugar, ancho chili powder, cinnamon and raisins too, and I rounded out the "tang" of traditional rye with a dose of Greek yogurt. To add a touch of moisture to the bread, since ryes are notorious for drying out, I also added some whole milk and a few egg yolks, which worked beautifully. Roasting the cherries allowed me to control the "wetness" of the dough too, though it's still fairly sticky. The finished boule is low-rising, dense and lightly spiced, with occasional "pops" of cherry, raisin or cacao laced throughout.

World Bread Day 2012 - 7th edition! Bake loaf of bread on October 16 and blog about it!

Also submitted to YeastSpotting on Wild Yeast

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sweet Red Bean Pie for a Comfort Food #SundaySupper

"It tastes like comfort."

Seriously, can description of something you made with heart and soul get any better than that? When I made this rich, sweet custard pie for the volunteers at my local food bank warehouse (Feed the Need in Durham - great people doing amazing work), I wanted only to show my appreciation for the otherwise thankless job they have. There are only a handful of them in the tiny industrial building down the street from my house, and they all work diligently without ever being seen or heard from. They are never recognized by the organization, the city or the people and charities they assist for their selfless behaviour - not that they ask for it, mind you. However, as volunteers helping people achieve security in one of the most basic of needs - good food - I felt someone should say thank you. And rather than wait idly by for "someone" to step forward with the same feelings I had, I did what I always do to express gratitude. I baked.

Of course, when I came to the warehouse with the pie, I didn't leave the hungry out to dry. We had a glut of end-season cucumbers, tomatoes, beans and pepper from the garden that they were more than happy to take off my hands (Feed the Need, being a warehouse-distributor, does take fresh goods as they have the walk-in fridges and freezers to handle them - unlike standard food banks).

This pie is your standard spicy custard-style concoction, akin to a pumpkin pie. However, in place of pureed squash, I used an adapted version of a recipe I found in Crescent Dragonwagon's Bean by Bean Cookbook which used - you guessed it - pureed beans. Unlike the cookbook's version, which uses pinto beans, I cooked up some adzukis I already had on hand. We had lots of potatoes nearing "sprouting" stage, including a sweet potato beginning to soften, so I whipped up a few batches of my lower-fat Potato Pastry Crust. I used a "white potato" version for my larger "main" pie, but since I found myself with some extra filling left over I rolled out the sweet potato dough in a bed of rolled oats (instead of flour) and made some tartlets. Knowing that the tartlets would be kept aside for my pecan pie-loving Mom, I garnished those with a sprinkle of chopped toasted pecans for a bit of flair. Nobody I served it to knew what went into it before they had a bite, and after they found out, they still polished off their slices and asked for the recipe! To me, the satisfaction of a job well done, done for the sake of making someone else's life a little better, is the greatest comfort there is.

When we think of comfort food, it immediately evokes so many memories deep within us. Lee of the blog Food for Thought is our guest this week for a special "Comfort Food" special #SundaySupper!! The theme, I think, is best described on FfT:
To me comfort food is anything that reminds you of home, that feeling of belonging and unconditional love.  To compare food to old shoes seems unfair.  But that really is what comfort food is to be.  It feels like a pair of comfortable shoes.  There is nothing pretentious or fussy.  It fits just right no matter what the occasion. 

Besides, with the cold weather coming, who couldn't use a touch of comfort? Check out the other offerings below:

#SundaySupper Comfort Food |Soups

#SundaySupper Comfort Food  | Main Dish

#SundaySupper Comfort Food | Desserts

Pairing Wine with Sunday Supper Comfort Food Favorites! by ENOFYLZ Wine Blog 

We would be honored to have 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 comfort foods! All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.

We’d also love to feature your easy go to recipes on our #SundaySupper Pinterest board and share them with all of our followers, too.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Artisanal Gluten Free Flour and Speculaas (Biscoff!)

Have you hopped on the Biscoff bandwagon yet? Truth be told, I haven't seen these Belgian spice cookies anywhere around here (the only Canadian stores are those out west, according to the website) but the fever is rampant in the food blog sphere. I can kind of see why - it's hard to go wrong with a good, spicy crisp cookie, but like the snickerdoodle and Nutella manias a few years back I don't really get what made them that popular all of a sudden. After all, they are a classic cookie - first marketed in 1932 - and undoubtedly Belgian grootmoeders (grandmas) were making them at Christmas for at least a hundred years before that.

So what is Biscoff, anyways? Well, the traditional name for the cookie is speculaas, and is a caramelized-sugar and spice cookie with a texture similar to a gingersnap and a flavour not all that much different. These are a good spice-cabinet emptier for would-be bakers: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and even pepper (white or black, depending on the region) find a home inside, along with a hint of almond extract and a dash of rum. I have an old recipe that uses whole wheat flour and baker's ammonia, which I have yet to try but hope to for the holidays... but what if you can't buy up some of the storebought cookies due to celiac disease or a vegan diet?

Thankfully, there's a fabulous recipe in Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking by Kelli and Pete Bronski that also uses their signature flour blend. I had to slightly modify the blend based on what we had on hand, and changed up the cookie a tad to make it vegan and add the traditional white pepper. The smell in the kitchen smacked of the holidays and I knew it would be a great addition to this week's roundup of 12 weeks of Christmas Treats (#12WksXmasTreats). The irony of this was that when I brought some of the cookies to the girls at my hair salon and told them they were speculaas / Biscoff cookie clones, not a single one knew what they were! Spice cookies, though, are universal, and with the hints of rum, almond and coconut (I used coconut butter) tempering the spice a bit they were a hit.

I baked these cookies both from refrigerated and frozen dough, and both work well. You can also freeze the cookies once they're baked (I would not suggest longer than 4 months), though I do like the idea of fresh-baked cookies a bit better. You have two options for freezing the dough - what I like is to refrigerate the log of dough until firm, slice it and re-arrange the slices into a log that you wrap in plastic, then heavy duty foil, and freeze. This way it's easier to "slice" (AKA break apart) the cookies into even pieces and bake from frozen. You can of course freeze the solid log of dough, though you may want to thaw it partially for a few hours on the counter) before trying to cut it. Frozen dough, if well wrapped, will keep in the freezer up to 6 months without problem.

Make sure to check out our Pinterest board for more inspiration!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Long n' Low Tomato Basil Sauce

It's Thanksgiving Day here in Canada, and as much as I may complain about the tomatoes attracting fruit flies, the cucumbers going soft and always having way more catnip than I can deal with every year, I am completely aware of the fact that I am in a far better place than many others. Who can say with certainty that they will have too much fresh produce from their garden, that the crop was too good, and that they find themselves sated long before making a dent in what's on offer? Couple that with Canada's (still decent, comparatively) healthcare and education systems, the freedom we enjoy both as a nation and as individuals, a diverse mosaic of people and a gorgeous landscape, and I have a lot to be thankful for. This doesn't even include the wealth of love I receive from my friends, family and pets, the electricity and running water in my air-conditioned, heated, comfortable home, my car, computer and internet access and of course my ability to cook.

It's in the spirit of fully appreciating the bounty I do have, and hopefully inspiring the thankfulness in each of you, that I'm sharing one of the most common yet effective ways of managing an over-productive tomato garden: Tomato Basil Sauce. Specifically, a long-simmered, thick puree filled with nutritious, homegrown produce - garlic, carrot, peppers, thyme and oregano in with the tomatoes and a glug of homemade wine from our backyard grapes. The prerequisite onion and celery were not from the garden, as I planted neither of them this year (except the Egyptian onion that is), but they helped the rest of the sauce come to life. The element that turned a fairly run-of-the-mill red sauce into this sauce was a full batch of my 'Taste of Italy' Concentrate. For those of you counting, this batch of sauce contains six pounds of tomatoes and two dozen cloves of garlic. So, if you like pomodoro sauce (or any of it's uses), and you absolutely adore garlic, this is the sauce for you - hands down.

I hope everyone has a wonderfully restful Thanksgiving Monday, wherever you are!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Spicy Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup for an Orange #SundaySupper

I'll admit (as I likely have before somewhere on this blog) that I'm not a huge fan of Thai food. Don't get me wrong - I love the whole Thai culture and the food is undoubtedly flavourful, rich and wholesome (for the most part). I just don't like it myself. It's probably thanks to the whole allergy to coconut / most nuts and my intense dislike of cilantro thing.

That said, my mom loves Thai food. She's not as into the tradition and culture as I am (my house, when I get one, is going to likely wind up half Thai and half African tribal decorated), but give her the choice between Thai, Chinese-American, seafood, pizza or burgers for dinner and you have a good chance of hitting the local tom yam and pad thai joint. In fact, when she came home from her business trip to the country, mention of the food was made as often as that of the beauty of the temples, hotels and people.

It should come as no surprise that when I found a soup that smacked of Thai cuisine in my copy of Home-Grown Harvest, I had to try it out. The rather exotic Sweet Potato & Coconut Soup with Thai Pesto by Ross Dobson was essentially everything you could ever want in a soup, and the perfect example of what most Asian cuisine is about - balance. The marriage of flavour, texture and heat was ideal - the pureed base is made with sweet potatoes, red onion and coconut milk, and is mild and sweet enough for even children to enjoy. The famous heat of Thai cuisine comes through in the pesto though. It comes packed with Thai green chillies, peanuts, cilantro and a hint of lime, and if eaten alone (especially without prior warning) can be a rather painful experience. The original recipe calls for dolloping the pesto on top of the finished soup, (the benefit of which is that everyone can then adjust the spice level to their own preference), but I knew it would only be packed for my mom’s lunches during the week so I stirred it in. Together, the sweet and spicy aspects of the recipe, paired with a delicate sourness from the pesto’s lime, meld into a stick-to-your-ribs whole that is neither too sugary not mind-blowingly hot.

This week's #SundaySupper is all about All Things Orange. The #SundaySupper family is using the spirit of the season to inspire you and will be sharing some fabulous dishes at the #SundaySupper table this week, and we do hope that you’ll join us!

Just look at all of the fabulous dishes being offered up this week:

Sunrise  (Breakfast and Brunch)

High Noon (Soups, Salads and Sandwiches)

Sunset (Dinner and Main Dishes)

By The Bonfire (Sweets, Snacks and Sips)
Please be sure you join us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper... we’ll be meeting up at 7:00 pm (EDT) for our weekly #SundaySupper  live chat where we’ll talk about our favorite recipes featuring our favorite fall color. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or through TweetChat! We’d also love to feature your easy go to recipes on our #SundaySupper Pinterest board and share them with all of our followers, too.

Also submitted to Gluten-Free Monday and Gluten Free Fridays

Friday, October 5, 2012

Roasted Garlic Tomato Paste ('Taste of Italy' Concentrate)

I love tomatoes. Any kind, any form, chances are I'm more than willing to take a bite or two. But every year at the end of the season, even I get sated with tomato goodness. I could have 3 or 4 a day every day, and would barely make a dent in the late season harvest.

Thankfully tomatoes take very well to the preserving process. Over the Summer I managed to jar batch upon batch of sauce, roasted tomatoes, chutney and jam (recipes coming), as well as drying a good amount of them for Winter use. But I was running out of jars - and patience to can. Turning to good ol' Google for help, I came across two blog posts that gave me the "aha" moment I needed - tomato paste! I figured that making it would be a long day of standing over the stove, possibly leading to burned tomatoes and an impossible to clean pot, but then I figured (and sylvie from Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener confirmed) that if I could make apple and peach butter in the oven, chances were I could do tomato paste in there too!

I knew I'd want something more than just tomatoes in my paste, though, since I was planning to use it for at least one batch of sauce. So, inspired by Francis Lam's ingredient list on her "The Bomb Tomato Concentrate" post, I added an onion, some basil and a whole whackload of garlic to the puree. I also added some citric acid powder since I'd be canning it (I used 1/2-cup jars), but that was it. Over the 4-5 hours it cooked down (it's easy but not fast!), the garlic and onion became sweet, rich sub-notes to that deep, complex tomato flavour you can only get from a long, slow roast, and I don't know if I can ever go back to the canned stuff now!

Submitted to Foodie Friday, Foodie Friends Friday, Wellness Weekends, Farm Girl Blog Fest, Gluten Free Mondays and Gluten-Free Fridays

UPDATE: I love roasted garlic, and recently found a link on CookNovel with not only a how-to (including how to roast individual cloves - WIN), but recipes for using the golden goodness too! Check them out and say hi: https://cooknovel.com/how-to-roast-garlic-recipes/

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Green Tomato Brownie Balls (and Week 2 of #12WksXmasTreats)

It's Thursday - and that means it's time for another round of 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats at Meal Planning Magic! Last week's offerings were amazing, all perfectly frugal ways to share the holiday joy with those you care about. The Pinterest board is going strong too, and everything I see makes me hungry (and eager to start giving out the stashes!). This week I'm going an even more frugal route than my last Treat, since this time I didn't have to buy anything and it uses up leftovers that would otherwise go stale or bad!

Cake / cookie / brownie balls are nothing new. Books and blog posts (including one of mine) have been written, there's a Wikipedia entry, specialized tools, even a whole company devoted to making these truffle-like spheres of compressed cake and frosting (or a similar "glue"). To me, making them was akin to making rum balls with my grandma at holiday time, crumbling just-stale cake, muffins, and even cookies into a bowl with a splash of milk or coffee with the prerequisite booze and a couple spoonfuls of cocoa, then rolling into balls and stashing away in the fridge until needed. Pretty much anything can go into one, and in these economic times it's a great way to keep the party going for another round.

Since I did have some leftover muffins and frosting, I figured why not give them the same treatment and make something for the holiday season? I know few people who will pass up a "truffle" of any kind, and when they're healthy, nutty, and chocolate? Come on! The awesome thing with these is that they freeze incredibly well either coated in chocolate or au naturale (just roll them in cocoa or icing sugar after thawing them) and are perfectly portable for dessert tables all over. You can make as many or as few as you want (or have ingredients for) and anyone from kids to seniors can whip them up in a jiffy!

Have you been planning or preparing any gifts / desserts / treats for the holidays yet? Have you even begun thinking about the holidays yet? (I know I'm still working on Canadian Thanksgiving!)

Also linked to Foodie Friday on Rattlebridge Farm and Foodie Friends Friday on Cindy's Recipes and Writings