Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Asian Meatless MiniBalls and Herbed Italian Meatless MiniBalls

I go through "phases" when it comes to my meals. I can eat a solid diet of roasted tofu and potatoes, lentil curry on rice and sushi for months, then all of a sudden none of those flavours appeal to me. Since I'm the only one at home with the overly restricted diet (certainly the only one who is mostly vegan), I inevitably find myself with leftover perishables that I just can't bring myself to stomach. While some things freeze well (beans, for example), others aren't graced with the same ability.

When I do find myself with more ingredients than my stomach wants to handle, I look for ways to both use up and reflavour the leftovers. With a simple herb or spice swap, new international twist or a new method of cooking, what was once lost to the depths of the freezer or the compost bin takes on a whole new life. After the holidays, I was sick of the convenient, yet relatively bland scallopini from Gardein sitting in my freezer and decided that a travel around the world was in order to keep them from a freezer-burned fate.

Herbed Italian Meatless MiniBalls
Herbed Italian Meatless MiniBalls
How to best accomplish the flavouring wasn't even a question - meatballs! I have yet to find an easier vehicle for herbs and spices that is so versatile, finding homes in pasta, soup, stew, even dumplings! Drawing from both Asia and more traditional Italy, I made two versions of "MiniBalls" that were perfect for jazzing up dinner. I varied the sizes of them too, for assorted uses - tiny ones the perfect size for Italian Wedding or Sesame Ginger Meatball soup, and slightly larger bites that would fit in well with the shumai or Chef Boyardee crowd. Of course, there's no limit to the possibilities for their use - and with as much flavour as they have, they're great for the whole family (even those who eschew meat-free fare)!

I will say that if you're planning on using these for soup, either 2 egg whites (obviously not vegan) or 1 prepared egg replacer really helps keep them together, as does baking them at 350F for 10 minutes and adding during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a soft spot for peanut butter. I don't think there's another spread I like more - growing up I'd regularly take a soup spoon to the jar of Skippy and (if no one was watching) swipe two huge scoops. No bread required! The slightly sweet, salty and creamy notes always melded better in my mouth than over-sweet Nutella. That said, when I discovered the beauty of chocolate and peanut butter (namely Nutella and peanut butter!), I was sold on the combination. Reese's became my new food fetish, brownies got plain old PB smeared on them in lieu of frosting, and I wasn't above making PB/Nutella sandwiches for breakfast.

We weren't allowed to bring peanut products to school growing up, but that didn't stop Mom and Grandma getting in the kitchen with me and making the infamous 3-ingredient (although always with brown sugar) and classic Chipits cookies for after school snacks. When I went to university, I sympathized with some of my classmates who never had the pleasure of eating a standard chocolate chip or peanut butter cookie from the cafeteria, since those things (along with 7/8ths of the menu) contained wheat or gluten.

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

I didn't have the knowledge, time or equipment to make them their own treats, but now as a bona fide foodie with a passion for baking and allergy needs I'm always on the lookout for an amazing recipe that doesn't feel like anything is missing. While leafing through Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking, though, I came across the Bronski's recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies. Since it used their Artisanal Gluten Free Flour Blend, which I had fantastic success with before, I knew I'd have to give these a whirl. But (like everything I do), I had to make it my own. I halved the recipe (since we didn't need a full batch of these babies kicking around), swapped some organic shortening for half the butter, cut the sugar a bit and used guar gum in place of the xanthan (which I don't have).

The biggest (and best, IMHO) change I made was to amp up the amount of "goodies", using some mini chocolate chips as well as the treat of my youth - the Reese's Cup. I was initially nervous about using the candy, as I wasn't sure about it's GF status, but after emailing Hershey's and perusing their Special Nutrition page, I found out they were in fact gluten free! I tell you, I have never been happier, since some of the cookies were destined for the gluten free chocolate-peanut butter fans at my hair salon! Hopefully those following Gluten Free Fridays will love them as much as they did!
Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Monday, January 28, 2013

French Vanilla Sheet Cake

I think the standard "go-to" flavour in the sweet kitchen will always be vanilla. It's not necessarily the "darling child" of the bake-shoppe, especially in today's realm of fancy, gourmet cupcakes, macarons and doughnuts! I'll admit, given the choice between a French vanilla cupcake and a devil's food, I'm hitting the chocolate hard.

French VanillaBut the fact remains that vanilla is still a relatively safe option to feed a crowd, especially a mixture of tastes, ages and backgrounds. For the longest time my picky sister would only eat vanilla cake (now it's only boxed chocolate!), and both my "likes almost anything" father and my super-scrutinizing stepfamily cite French vanilla as their favourite flavour. So it was only fitting that when it came to making one of the three birthday cakes I did back in October, one of them had to be a fabulous French vanilla.

Now I've made vanilla cake before. Several times. But like the carrot cake(s) I do, every one has something slightly different to make them new and special each time. With this sheet cake, especially since I was making it for a crowd with at least one French vanilla lover, I really played with the concept. French vanilla pudding mix added flavour and a lovely soft texture, dried egg powder added the custardy richness I'm used to in FV ice cream, and buttermilk made the crumb moist as well as lent a nice tang that took away from some of the vanilla sugar and honey's cloying sweetness. Even though I'm not a huge vanilla fan, I wouldn't pass up a slice of this - especially when it was topped with the cream cheese frosting I made!

This is so delicious and simple that I'm sharing it with Mom's Test Meal Mondays this week.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lassy Beer Boule

One of the staples of existence has always been a form of bread. It's for good reason - think of how simple something so sustaining really is! Ground grain, water and either natural or added yeast cultures - that's it! Three ingredients, plus time and heat, work magic to produce an object that is basic need, a currency, a plate and a parcel. It really is remarkable.

Of course, over time we've elaborated on the three-ingredient basic, adding salt and sugar for flavour and yeast function, fats and eggs for texture and colour, and all sorts of additions to suit our every whim. Loaves are round, square, oblong, flat, twisted and braided, or done away with altogether in favour of the rolls, pretzels and bagels filling bakery shelves. While the shapes of the dough do offer certain benefits to the physiology of the bread being created, one of the most prominent reasons for slashing, dusting, painting or adorning a loaf is simply decoration. Who doesn't like a beautiful object of any kind, especially when that object tastes delicious?

For this month's Bread Baking Day (hosted by The Gingered Whisk), bakers are parading their gorgeous, decorated creations in a culinary fashion show! While my "rustic" boule is not the highschool cheerleader of the group, I did make an effort to pretty it up a bit by slashing a "Winter tree" onto the surface. The dough itself is a whole-grain, fruit and seed filled concoction that I enriched with butter, molasses and beer for a world of flavour and moisture. Not only is it fantastic for eating fresh, but when lightly toasted it is a perfect vehicle for sweet butter, cream cheese, peanut butter or any sort of Toast Topper!

Lassy Beer Boule

When you make bread, do you decorate it at all? What else do you do to make your food pretty?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Mellowcreme Hot Chocolate Truffles

My mother and I cleaned out the pantry last week. It's a scary project, with a 4 foot wide, 10-foot tall, very deep beast set into the wall to contend with. Things get lost in there, or my stepdad will stash strange (to me and mom, at least) Italian canned goods and ridiculous amounts of "junk food (namely tortilla chips, peanut butter pretzels and queso dips) that never see light of day. For some reason we also came across a single packet of instant hot cocoa mix, which neither of us saw ourselves drinking before the expiration date. When I turned to my "baker's cabinet" and found that I still had some candy corn left over, along with a piddly bit of coconut, I remembered a recipe I had pinned ages ago from the blog My Man's Belly.

Pamela had the brilliant idea of melting down the mellowcreme with a few other goodies, making balls and coating them in chocolate. I was feeling too lazy to do the whole melting chocolate and dipping thing, so I decided to just coat the balls in a cocoa/icing sugar mix instead. In place of the powdered sugar and cherries in the original, I used the hot chocolate mix and coconut. Without the half and half, I simply used almond milk (which is what I drink), but since the candy corn isn't vegan (and neither is the cocoa mix) it was purely for convenience. I think you could probably use any liquid you cared to, and since these ones used coconut and coconut oil, a dash of coconut milk or cream would have been great too!

Finally, to make the "hot" chocolate flavour pop, I added a dash of my current favourite chili pepper - ancho - which added a little "pique" without setting your mouth on fire!

Easy Mellowcreme and Chocolate Truffles

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pumpkin Gogi Granola Cookies

Cookie InnardsI promise, this is the last pumpkin recipe of the week - but it's a good one! Not only are these cookies gluten free and vegan, but they are SO full of pumpkin flavour! The secret? Concentrating the pumpkin - a fantastic tip that I picked up from the original creator of these unleavened bites, Tessa. While she cooked hers down on the stovetop, I didn't have a small enough pot so baked it down instead. The cookies themselves are extremely dense, obviously, but not dry or "sawdusty" like some storebought GF products can be, and they have a great texture from the chewy gogi berries and crunchy cereal I added. While I wouldn't call these chewy cookies, they're not crisp, sandy or cakey really. Just toothsome, super spicy and delicious!

These also travel well - which helped around the holidays - and the dough freezes beautifully too so you can bake it off as needed. That said, these really are at their best when completely cool, and leave them on the sheet for that otherwise you will have Pumpkin Gogi Granola crumbles!

Shared with Gluten-Free Wednesdays

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Granola

The pumpkin mania continues! I had way more leftover squash than Saturday's bars used, and since I've done a couple "stranger" granolas that won favour over the course of time, I figured I'd try my hand at a more "traditional" flavour scheme. I found this recipe from Pure Provender and fell in love with the photos of chunky, obviously crunchy clusters of oats. It looked like the perfect topping for my mom's favourite snack of Greek yogurt and apples!

Around here, you can't really go wrong with pumpkin pie, but I wanted to add a bit of extra "oomph" to the basics and started playing around. To keep it nut free (and stick with the "pumpkin" theme), I tossed in some pumpkin seeds, then added an extra pop of colour from dried cranberries and some spelt flakes for interest. I amped up the pumpkin itself as well, just because I could. I was so pleased with the result! Chunky but not "brick like" clusters, the perfect balance of sweet and spicy, and filled with all sorts of goodness from the whole grains and pumpkin seeds - without a ton of oil!

Pumpkin Spice Granola

Monday, January 21, 2013

Lobster Broth Noodle Bowl (A Food Trend #RecipeRedux)

I have to say, out of all the predicted food trends for this coming year, I'm most excited about the ones surrounding childhood food and nutrition. According to, the five things to look for in that respect are
  • Healthier kids’ meals
  • Whole grain items in kids’ meals
  • Fruit/vegetable children’s side items
  • Oven-baked items in kids’ meals (e.g. baked chicken fingers, oven-baked fries)
  • Children’s portions of adult menu items
I'm a firm believer that good nutrition and a healthy respect for food begins from day one. If we can take these trends and apply them at home by teaching our children how to cook and care for themselves and their health, I think the world would be a much healthier place!

Children's meals are not the only trend I'm looking forward to seeing good things from. Vegetables are experiencing a resurgence in popularity, and both locally grown and organic produce are at the forefront. Sustainable seafood, non-wheat noodles and Asian cuisine are also on the radar, and it was all of these that I looked to when it came to planning this month's #RecipeRedux submission. We were asked to take one of the many food trends out there and translate them into a healthy, delicious soup or stew.

Prawn and Broccoli Broth with Kelp Noodles

I made this noodle soup bowl with tons of broccoli (which soaks up the broth and tastes delicious!), sustainable, cold water shrimp and a mixture of bean thread (cellophane) and kelp noodles. A gluten free lobster soup base adds a ton of flavour too, and the finished product reminded me of the noodle soups you can buy in the Chinatowns of downtown Toronto (another trending topic!).

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Toast Topper #16: Grandma's Mock Apricot Jam (Retro #SundaySupper)

I love my collection of old cookbooks and recipe cards.The recipe cards in particular, because each author's script is so unique and telling about who they could have been like. Some of them are old and worn almost to the point of being illegible, but when you can make out the words you can see that they are carefully crafted in a way that only someone who loved to make the dish could do. Other cards are typed (on a typewriter) on yellowed index cards, which to me look like they could have been stolen from the steno office my grandmother used to work at. Then there are those that aren't "cards" as much as newspaper and magazine clippings, occasionally scrawled on and almost always stained, and the recipes that came from various churches, government agencies and businesses. While most recipes are nowhere near today's definition of "healthy" - filled with lard, cream, butter, meat and sugar - and some of them I would never dream of touching to my lips (1917's tripe fricasee? Solomon Gundy from the Maritimes?), but holding one of those cards is effectively touching history and it's fascinating enough to keep me hounding relatives for their old files.

In one of the old collections my grandma gave to me over the years was a collection of "War Staples", all items that were intended to replace expensive "luxury" items in the grocery store by engineering the flavours of cheap, government-subsidized rations. There were a lot of carrot and potato recipes courtesy of the Ministry of Food's agenda, and this jam is no exception. Along with carrots, the recipe uses apples (which could be bruised) and rhubarb, which was (and is) a staple in many gardens. The note on the card declares the resulting mixture "tastes and looks like the most expensive apricot jam" and having never actually had apricot jam other than as a tart glaze I can only vouch that it does in fact taste like apricots, but the texture is more of a "butter" than a "jam". Either way, it is a cheap(ish) and fun project that you can do to re-capture that glimmer of historical whimsy, and get a Toast Topper out of it too!

Mock Apricot Jam

This week's #SundaySupper is all about taking those retro recipes we grew up and loved and sharing them with the current generation. For many of us, these food memories take us back in time. Some of us enjoyed them so much that we will never change the recipe, but others are raring to reinvent their favourites. Here's what's on the family table:

Sunday Supper Retro Appetizers:

Sunday Supper Retro Salads:

Sunday Supper Retro Breads and Sandwiches:

SundaySupper Main Dishes:

Sunday Supper Retro Sides and Veggies:

Sunday Supper Retro Desserts and Cocktails:
Wow - I may have never tasted this jam from the hands of Grandma, but in fact I did the reverse - a small jar of ye olde Mock Apricot Jam (modernized slightly for ease - forget the food mill, hello blender!) was tucked into her Christmas stocking!

Which one is your favorite?

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter each Sunday. We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET and you do not want to miss out on the fun. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here → Sunday Supper Movement.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pumpkin Streusel Bars

After the muffins were such a hit, I got pumpkin fever. I bought myself a couple Kuri squash at the Asian market a few days after the muffins disappeared, hacked them in half and roasted them a la Alton Brown until soft and mushy. Or I should say, roasted most of them until mushy. I love the rich, sweet and nutty flavour of the Kuri and saved 1/4 of one of them to make oven fries. I know Kuri squash are not even proper "pumpkins", but they are of the same genus (Cucurbita) and have a similar look and taste, and that's enough for me! 

Pumpkin Streusel BarsAfter they roasted and cooled, I pureed them smooth and cooked them down a little bit more on the stovetop to evaporate any excess water. Then, it was just a question of what to make first! My Pinterest board was swimming with ideas, all of which I wanted to make that instant, but finally I decided on a relatively simple streusel bar from Nan's Recipe Spot. Then it was just a case of making it my own, adding roasted pumpkin seeds and whole wheat flour to the crust for flavour and nutrition, cutting down the sugar and butter a touch and making a different recipe for the topping. The filling became eggless, with a touch of rich local honey and a dash of cornstarch for thickening. The whole thing baked into one striated, but complete package full of texture and flavour. Not too sweet, it was a great addition to the office coffee break room even though most Fall flavours have long since disappeared from the bakery shelves!

Shared with Foodie Friends Friday

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pumpkin Cappuccino Muffins

Who doesn't like a good muffin with a cup of coffee? One of the big hits with my group of friends this past Fall was the 'Bucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte, which had no pumpkin but almost 50 grams of sugar and 13 grams of fat! And that's just for the drink itself - those who had some "breakfast" with their cuppa in the form of a slice of pumpkin bread or a festive pumpkin scone wound up with an extra 300-400 calories on the side. Of course, making your own drink is almost always a healthier, not to mention more flavourful option (and a cheap, simple thing to do), so why not extend the same courtesy to the bakery section?

With a can of pumpkin sitting in my pantry from God knows how long ago (likely Thanksgiving), I was casting about for snack ideas and came across Cookin’ Canuck's recipe for a "Pumpkin Spice Latte" muffin. I never would have thought to mix the spices of pumpkin pie with coffee anyways (I found the whole "latte" thing a bit odd), but in a muffin it somehow just worked! Without any espresso powder on hand, I started to improvise matters. Espresso became French vanilla cappuccino mix, whole wheat flour turned into triticale, a punch of flax helped replace the egg, and the sugar got cut back with the addition of a xylitol blend. Discovering my mom had finished off the Greek yogurt in the house but that we had a half container of low fat sour cream, it was a no brainer to switch that out too. In the end, the muffins were decadent to call dessert, but still wholesome enough to ease the guilt after one too many coffee shop drinks!

Pumpkin Spice Cappuccino Muffins

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chewy Caramel and Chocolate Granola Cookies

With my newly made Salted Caramel Sauce, I couldn't wait to start using it in all sorts of treats! Oh I had inspiration. Lots of inspiration. But it was a cookie recipe I came across on Pinterest (looking for a use for a solitary, over-ripe banana) that hooked me, and before I knew it I had the mixing bowls and spatulas out, tossing in granola for a crunch of chocolate and swapping out the GF flour mix that Kristy from Keepin It Kind called for in the original for oat flour. Of course, my caramel took centre stage as the sweetener, and after a nice chill they baked into chewy perfection.
Caramel Granola Cookies
If you are any sort of caramel, banana, or chocolate fan (guilty on 2/3 - I don't like raw bananas unless they're green!), these are a great treat for you. They're vegan (if you made the Chunky Aztec Chocolate Granola with agave), whole grain, and even low fat! Biting into one, though, all you'll think is "time for dessert".

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Simple Salted Caramel Sauce

Sometimes you just need a rich, sweet caramel sauce. I mean really - cream, sugar, butter... there's (almost) no better topping for French vanilla ice cream (hot fudge still tops my list). But if you're like me, butter and cream are in short supply at home, and when I needed some caramel sauce for a recipe (which you'll see tomorrow!) I had no pre-made nor any butter and cream. But, I did have the (more wholesome), flavourful almond milk in my fridge, and combined with both white and brown sugar and a touch of salt I soon had a vegan version of a recipe I found on Bright Eyed Baker. Without any need for additional solid fat, the sauce is easy, cheap and versatile. While I'm sure it's not as decadent and gooey as heavy cream-laden sauce is, the flavour is remarkable and the texture works perfectly in recipes or added to yogurt or cut up apples.

By the way - if you're looking for a very salted caramel, add another 1/4 tsp of Kosher salt. 

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays - sorry for the lack of picture!

Simple Salted Caramel Sauce
Inspired by Bright Eyed Baker

Makes about 3/4 cup, 12 (1-tbsp) servings
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, warmed (I used Silk)
1/2 tsp fine sea salt

  1. Add sugars to a large, heavy-bottomed pot, spreading to an even layer.
  2. Place medium heat and cook until it is a dark golden-brown.
  3. Remove from the heat and quickly stir the warm milk.
  4. Return to heat and cook, stirring, for an additional 10-15 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 70.1
Total Fat: 0.3 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 115.6 mg
Total Carbs: 20.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.1 g
Protein: 0.1 g

Monday, January 14, 2013

Rudolph's Blondies

In the off chance you have leftover holiday food hanging around (guilty as charged!), it can just be one more temptation to steer you clear of your New Year diet resolution. You know you have one. We all put ourselves on a diet come January 1... even if it's not for weight loss per se. With a monthful of parties and dinners and stress and mall food - oy!

Then of course come the leftovers, which can get a bit tired after a few meals or snacks (yes, even my mom's delicious turkey and the Holiday Supper Stuffing), and January is usually spent around here figuring out what to do with the sweets! We've still got a half-loaf of panettone left, after receiving two for the holidays, and the cookie tin of shortbreads has a few stragglers too. The problem here is that we're a house of allergies, dieters and diabetics. So, what to do with a bagful of holiday candy corn that a well-meaning houseguest gave us?

Well, I suppose I could have eaten them all myself... but then I'd have fallen into a sugar shock myself! Apparently, candy corn has less sugar than raisins (who knew?) but it's too sweet to enjoy more than a few pieces at a time. Instead, I scouted around on Pinterest and came across a perfect use for the sweet but bland flavour of the candy - blondies!

Liz from CakeFYI went all out with her version, adding a candy corn frosting to her bars, but I was already reeling from the original recipe's ingredient list calling for a whole cup of brown sugar. Plus a cup of candy corn. So I did three major things in my recipe - cut the sugar in half, swapped canola oil for most of the butter (it was cheaper and butter was at a premium over the holidays!) and nixed the frosting. Because I'm a "salty girl" and I was still concerned that the finished batch would be too sweet (Liz' version adds no salt), I added a dash along with some nutmeg and used salted butter for what little I included.

Rudolph's Blondies

The balance of the final bars was great - they're dense and rich, like a slightly better version of both the candy and blondies. The sweetness is there, but not overpowering either - it's a whole family treat!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Beef Stroganoff for #SundaySupper's Birthday!

My mom makes one mean strogie. It's a classic recipe, but for some reason it just tastes like more when you bite into it. Whether over rice (hers and my favourite), roast potatoes (which my stepdad likes) or noodles (the traditional starch), the tangy, slightly creamy melange is always a huge comfort and is now the common option for quiet birthdays and Sunday dinners at home. We do a lot more "classic" Sunday supper meals these days, usually having my grandma and my stepbrother's fiancee over. I think it took last year's events to really drive home the importance of connecting and spending time with those we love around us, who we take for granted that they'll always be there, until they aren't.

I thank my involvement in the #SundaySupper movement for fostering that mentality in me, and while I may not be able to eat what the rest of the family can and does, I can share stories, inspiration and good cooking with them - and the wonderful friends I've met along the way in our tweet-chats. As Isabel, our fearless leader, wrote in this week's preview post: ...eating Supper Around the Family Table is the best nourishment we can give our families. It is about so much more than just the food that is served.

This week marks the one-year anniversary of #SundaySupper. While I wasn't part of the "original eight", I'm so proud that I got the chance to be a part of the weeks I was around for. To celebrate the success of this incredible event and continue solidifying our commitment to the craft and to each other as friends and co-cooks, we've chosen recipes made by each other over the year's events and made them for our own families. When I saw the stroganoff on Melanie's blog From Fast Food to Fresh Food it made total sense for me to make it - it's been the "grownup" birthday dinner here over the past few years, has been a family favourite for as long as I can remember and is the epitome of comfort food meets classy food. Like pretty much everything else I've tried from fellow #SundaySupper bloggers, I was not disappointed!

Mom's Beef Stroganoff

This is what's hitting the tables this week for #SundaySupper's birthday:

Sunday Supper Appetizers:

Sunday Supper Soups and Breads:

Sunday Supper Main Dishes: 

Sunday Supper Veggies: 

Sunday Supper Desserts and Snacks: 

 Sunday Supper Breakfast Faves:

Sunday Supper Wine Pairings by ENOFYLZ Wine Blog

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter each Sunday! 
We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET and you do not want to miss out on the fun. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? You can sign up by clicking here.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tender Cut - Out Cookies and Gluten Free Cut - Out Sugar Cookies

I love baking for my hair salon's crew, especially at holiday time. Since at least one stylist there keeps gluten free, and I know a good amount of them are vegan, it gives me a little bit of opportunity to play with "traditional" recipes. I love seeing their eyes light up when one of the two batches I bring in is labelled "gluten free" (I also list all the ingredients so everyone knows what's in them), and while I'm not usually present when they're dug into, I always hear great feedback the next time I come in for a trim!

Gluten Free Vegan Sugar Cookies
GF Cut - Out Sugar Cookies
This year I brought in a few treats for the girls (and gentlemen!) - including these two variations on the classic sugar cookie. I picked sugar cookies (vegan, of course) because they're the perfect tool to showcase to non-GFers how simple and non-threatening gluten free items can be to eat, as well as to give a relatively "safe" option free of nuts, eggs, dairy and (for one batch) gluten. Sugar cookies are also great for the sheer fact that they're a blank canvas for icing, and I definitely had fun with the decorations! To keep the cookies straight, I made all the gluten free biscuits heart or cat shaped, and the "normal" ones became stars and elephants. A basic powdered sugar icing got jazzed up with spiced rum for a punch of flavour and a quick set, and following this guide from SugarBelle they never looked better (even though I was in a rush, hence no finished pics).

When they were all packed up in their respective boxes (and clearly labelled), you'd never be able to guess which was which, and that was the point. I know many people who tried both and loved them equally, and in terms of making them I think I even slightly preferred the gluten free vegan version (they held their shape a touch better)!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Cracked Wheat Bread, Two Ways

We're finally getting back into the "swing" of things after all the holiday hubbub, and one of the first things my mom asked for me to make when she went back to work was some hearty whole grain bread to go with the "leftovers" soup I made from the turkey carcass (hope to get that one up this week!). I turned to one of my favourite "bread books", Prairie Home Breads: 150 Splendid Recipes from America's Breadbasket by Judith Fertig and found the perfect candidate - Cracked Wheat Bread. 

Whenever I think of cracked wheat, I think of my grandma's stories of eating it with breakfast. It's a hearty, wholesome and cheap porridge, that just so happens to be great in bread too! When shopping, I picked up some, trying to remember what the recipe said, but didn't get enough. Hm... do I make half the recipe? Nah - not when I had some other grains to play with! I wound up using up the cracked wheat, some 12 grain hot cereal and a handful of bulghur (pre-cooked, cracked wheat), and the combination worked perfectly! 

Cracked Wheat Bread

Like I said, the recipe makes two loaves. Well, I wasn't content with leaving the dough well enough alone, not when it was such a wonderful blank canvas! So, I divided the lot in half after the first rise and while one half went on it's merry way to becoming a nice wholegrain sandwich bread, I brought out the mix ins for the rest of the batch. I didn't go too crazy though - just sunflower and pumpkin seeds for crunch and a handful of soaked raisins for sweet pops of moisture. While my mom liked both, I know her well enough to spot the "redux" loaf disappearing a little faster than the plain Jane one. Take your pick, or toss in your own favourites! You can't go wrong... unless you really try!

Cracked Wheat Redux
Sending these loaves to YeastSpotting at Wild Yeast.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Nut and Seed Nougat (#SundaySupper Bucket List!)

Nut n' Seed NougatThis holiday season was the catch-all for recipes I always wanted to try and conquer. Bubble Sugar and Coffee Bean Brittle were two of them, along with a few other candy and bread recipes I still haven't gotten around to sharing (bad blogger!), Indian Pancake Syrup and those Vintage Speculaas. But when I found the nut-filled French-Italian nougat recipe in The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook, it looked like something that would use up egg whites from the shortbreads we made and could be the star of my gift baskets - especially since so many recipients were European!

Since I've been making a lot of candy this year, I was somewhat familiar with the process, and having done marshmallows in particular definitely helped. I made a few changes to the original recipe based on what I had in the house (i.e. not enough almonds, or corn syrup, and I wanted to play with the vanilla sugar I had). However, I was not prepared with how stiff the whipped mixture really gets - the direction to "stir the nuts" into the plain base was more like "try not to break your spatula / your arms", and (partially because I slightly overcooked the sugar syrup) cutting it was one of the hardest things either my mom or I had ever experienced. It was well received though, and made a ton so was perfect for gifts.

Would I make it again? Probably not. As much as people liked it, it was far too hard to work with and definitely too hard to cut on my own. But, the point is that I did try it, and I learned, and gosh darn it I conquered that mound of rock hard sugar!

Nougat Slices

This week’s Sunday Supper is all about trying something new, something that’s been on your bucket list but you have yet to tackle. I'm amazed at the wealth and variety of good eats on our bucket list! Some I hadn't even thought of ever making, until now!

Sunday Supper Specialty Breads:

Sunday Supper Main Dishes:

Sunday Supper Desserts and Snacks:

Don't forget to join the #SundaySupper conversation on Twitter this Sunday! We tweet throughout the day, with our weekly chat starting at 7:00PM EST. Simply follow the#SundaySupper hashtag and include it in your tweets to join in the chat! We also have a fabulous #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Lemon Honey Roasted Carrots

I hated cooked carrots as a kid. Unlike essentially every other child I knew, I had a mindset that sweet vegetables held absolutely no place on the dinner table. Instead, you'd find me gladly chowing down on the bitter lettuces, cruciferous plants and asparagus stalks, the spicy radishes and hot peppers, or the sour-salty pickled cucumbers and giardiniera.

As I grew up, though, the caramelly taste of roasted veggies grew on me more and more. The bittersweet notes from the bits that are just slightly overdone helps temper the sugar in the beet, carrot, sweet potato or squash, and I'll admit that I'm one of those people who likes their fries (and really most carb-like things) well done - blame my dad, who likes burnt cookies more than perfectly golden ones! Now I not only roast the root veg and tubers, but I love asparagus, green beans, brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower done this way too.

These carrots came from my garden's overabundant (if there is such a thing) yield this year. We ate as many as we could au naturale - I mean really, you couldn't ask for cheaper organic heirloom veggies! - but finally they were even outstaying their welcome in the fridge. To get them into a perfect dinner side-dish format, I called upon the flavours of something my mom used to whip up for dinner during the week (boiled carrots with honey and lemon), but jazzed them up with herbs, spices and garlic before roasting them to tender perfection. While they're certainly simple enough for dinner, these are fancy and delicious enough for company too! 

Lemon Honey Roasted Carrots

Sent to Wellness Weekends and Gluten Free Friday