Monday, April 29, 2013

Triple Malt Chocolate Chippers

Were you an Ovaltine kid? While I was more a fan of my malt in chocolate-covered ball form, my mom and her side of the family are die hard fans of the bittersweet flavour in everything from bread to milkshakes. Then I started seeing posts for malted milk chocolate chip cookies. Whoa - chewy cookies, with the extra layer of Ovaltine? Sounds good to me!

I dialed up the malted flavour a touch more in my batch too - using a roasted malted barley flour as well as swapping the chocolate syrup for the less cloying, more flavourful sweetness of malted barley syrup. Bittersweet chocolate chips replaced the milk chocolate in the original, and the whole batch became eggless with the help of one of my favourite egg replacers - ground chia seed. Huge, with chewy middles and perfectly crisp edges, these are cookies you would be proud to serve at a bake sale, an ice cream party or just after school with a tall glass of milk!

Shared with Sugar & Slice Sundays 

Triple Malt Chocolate Chippers

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Multilayer Bars for New Adventures in #SundaySupper

There are some recipes that it seems like everyone knows how to make, but I've either never attempted or only made very recently. Things like homemade mac & cheese. Tuna (or chicken) casserole. Chocolate sauce. Seven Layer Dip. Stuffing. Granted, most of these just weren't eaten at home growing up, so it just didn't occur to me. I'm getting more varied in my experiences though, mostly thanks to my wonderful job at the school and teaming up with both #RecipeRedux and #SundaySupper!

Since this week our #SundaySupper group is all about new experiences and adventures in the kitchen (and in life!), I wanted to try my hand at a recipe I never really believed would work - the infamous Magic Bar. And really, it doesn't seem like it should work - you're just tossing a bunch of stuff on top of each other, no binder for the layers, then pouring condensed milk over the whole thing! How does it solidify? How can you call it anything other than pudding? But, like magic tricks and mysteries, it does work. I don't know what's in the condensed milk (I don't really want to know as a nutritionist!), but it morphs into this creamy "glue" along with the chocolate and butterscotch chips and keeps it all together.

Of course, even though it was my first time making anything like these, I had to jazz them up. When I found out these were also called Seven Layer Magic Cookie Bars, I wondered - could I do more? Could I make these into something that was even better than the original, with more complex flavours and a little fruity kick? I decided to give it a whirl, and - like magic - they worked wonderfully. Rich, sticky sweet, a little more "grown up" with the fruit and bittersweet chocolate, I had to wonder why people didn't make them this way before!

Multi-layer BarsI started with a chocolate cookie and coconut oil base, spread it with a tart raspberry jam, then piled on coconut, thinly-sliced banana, bittersweet couverture discs, and butterscotch chips. For the condensed milk mixture, I mixed up the part can I had left over from the Fibre Bars with a dollop of creamy, natural peanut butter and poured that on top, finally capping it with chopped roasted peanuts! Oh. My. Gosh. Can we say Heaven?? It certainly was for my dad - the king of the PB+banana+butterscotch combo.

Take a cooking adventure and tackle something new! This event is hosted by Conni of The Foodie Army Wife - Thanks Conni!

Check out the brave new world of yummy delights below:

New Expeditions (Sides, Starters & Staples)

Homemade Corn Tortillas from Pescetarian Journal
Easy Oven Polenta from Shockingly Delicious
Homemade Spiced Flour Tortillas from Chocolate Moosey
Naan from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
Homemade Tofu from Kimchi MOM
Indian Moong Beans from Magnolia Days
Baked Lemon Coconut Risotto from Soni’s Food
Homemade Peanut Butter from Home Cooking Memories
Homemade Ricotta Cheese from Webicurean
Portuguese Chorizo Bread from Family Foodie  
Savory mushroom and herb steel cut oat Risotto Foxes Love Lemons
Grilled Asian Snap Peas and Peppers from Neighborfood

Grand Quests (Main Dishes)
Traditional Pork Tamales from Gourmet Drizzles
Braised Lamb Brisket with Lemon Oregano Yogurt Sauce from The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
Rice Burger from The Urban Mrs.
Pan-fried Scallops with Garlic Chili Linguine from Food Lust People Love
Miso-Glazed Salmon from The Foodie Patootie
Penne with Mustard and Chives from My Other City By The Bay
Arepas Rellenas (Stuffed Arepas) from The Wimpy Vegetarian
Spanish Baked Scallops from Momma’s Meals
Black Beans and Cheese Empanadas from Basic N Delicious
Pork Dim Sum from Small Wallet, Big Appetite
Venison Steak Gyros from Curious Cuisiniere
Baked Tilapia with Parmesan Basil Sauce from Growing Up Gabel
Vegetarian Hortobagyi Pancakes from Happy Baking Days
Caribou & Andouille Chili from The Foodie Army Wife

Escapades (Sweet Treats & Spirited Companions)
Vegan Chocolate Mousse from The Not So Cheesy Kitchen
Zebra Cake from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Multilayer Bars from What Smells So Good?
Rut-Busting Wines For New Cooking Adventures from ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows from Vintage Kitchen
Strawberry Raspberry Fruit Leather from Juanita’s Cocina
Making Macarons – FAIL! from girlichef
Macaroons from Noshing With The Nolands
Fresh Strawberry Frozen Yogurt from The Messy Baker
Bircher Muesli from Peanut Butter and Peppers
Hello Kitty Rice Krispies from The Ninja Baker
Homemade Cinnamon Rolls from In The Kitchen With KP
Dorie Greenspan’s Orange Almond Tart from Hip Foodie Mom
Ombre Mini Cakes from Daily Dish Recipes
Chocolate Dipped Madeleines from Big Bear’s Wife

Multi-layer BarsJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on Twitter on Sunday, April 28th to talk all about citrus recipes! We’ll tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 3:00 pm AKST/7:00 pm EST. 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 delicious recipes and food photos.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Super Simple Vegan Taco Salad

Any Guesses?With the warmer months approaching (soon... maybe. Please??) my thoughts are already on the garden. I just finished sorting out my "direct sow" seeds (this year it's Lutz beetsstrawberry spinach and a rainbow carrot mix), and my heirloom tomato seeds are well on their way. This year's crop, if Mother Nature is kind, will feature tiny Red Currants, rich purple Gypsies and the lovably hideous Riesetomates, possibly with another group of Indigo Roses if I can find space (and the store that sells the seedlings)!

Of course, at the moment we're still relying on supermarket produce, which tries to emulate their fresh-from-the-garden counterparts but often comes up short. Lettuce priced at $2.47 a head is crenated and half-slimy, tomatoes are overpriced tennis balls and spongy zucchini is the size of a finger. But still, the call of the sun and the slowly increasing temperatures is a strong one, and I can't help but crave more fresh veggies and cool, crisp salads.

To compensate for the lack of our market's quality (and the still-brisk evenings), I turned to the cook's friend - heat. Just like roasting under-ripe or out-of-season tomatoes concentrates and enhances their flavour, adding a warm, hearty, spicy topping (in my case, a taco filling) to cold veggies, followed by cool, refreshing yoghurt and lime creates a whole new flavour and texture sensation that is so much more than the sum of it's parts.

I know most taco salads have a tortilla shell (or at least chips), and you can certainly add those, or cooked brown rice, to beef up the bowl a bit more. I opted to have a small bowl of garlicky millet on the side, since for some reason grains on cold greens weirds me out. Plus, I never really liked hard tacos anyway, and the soft ones turn to mush too fast! Either way, this salad is a light yet hearty addition to the Mexican (or Tex-Mex) table, and is a nice way to herald Cinco de Mayo with the rest of the Holiday Food Blog Parties group! Take a look at the delectable treats on display:

1. Alfajores from Roxana's Home Baking
2. Spicy Fish Tacos with Avocado Yogurt Sauce from Crumb Blog
3. Classic Flan from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
4. Dulce de Leche Milkshake with Coconut Milk Whipped Cream from Chocolate Moosey
5. Lime Margarita Bars from Girl in the Little Red Kitchen
6. Shrimp and Avocado Ceviche from Magnolia Days
7. Tropical Fiesta Cocktail from Hungry Couple NYC
8. Paletas - Mexican Popsicles from Pineapple and Coconut
9. Bizcochitos Cookies from Jen's Favorite Cookies
10. Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes from Gotta Get Baked
11. Super Simple Vegan Taco Salad from What Smells So Good?
12. Gluten Free Tres Leches Cake from Kelly Bakes
13. Queso Blanco from The Messy Baker
14. Gorditas with Picadillo from Juanita's Cocina
15. Strawberry Margerita Slurpee from Chocolate Chocolate and More

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Multigrain Sourdough Bread for Bread Baking Day #58

Lately I've been coming home from work rather stressed out, for a few reasons I won't go into here. While some people write, exercise, listen to music, drink or eat to escape from daily life, I go back to the kitchen and fire up the oven. To me, there is nothing more soothing than the experience of crafting something out of the basic elements of flour, sugar and water (or some variation thereof), especially when that end product is a yeasty, hearty loaf of bread. 

Multigrain Sourdough BreadThankfully, I have at least one willing assistant (with a remarkably adventurous palate) to eat the fruits of my labour. For my mom, when it comes to bread the more nuts, seeds, grains and fruity bits I can fit into the dough the better, and I always try to keep it on the high-fibre, higher-protein end of the spectrum, with a minimal amount of added fat, so that a slice or two with her lunch or midafternoon tea can keep her satisfied and energized without weighing her down. 

For Bread Baking Day #58 this month, we were invited to come up with a recipe full of flakes and seeds by our host, Cinzia from Cindystar. With pretty much every seed and grain I had in the pantry, plus a handful of Craisins and a perfectly tangy sourdough starter, this hearty, dense whole wheat bread is a perfect fit for the party! With the protein and fibre the seeds and grains add, it might just help turn that pair of jeans (or swimsuit!) into the perfect fit for you too!

Also shared with YeastSpotting

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Jamaican Lamb Curry

Leftovers. Who doesn't have a love/hate relationship with them? I mean we have way more food in our house at the moment than I can ever see us eating for some reason (well, partially because I have pre-baked stuff for work in the freezer), yet neither my mom nor I (the two cooks in the house) can bear to throw anything away that is still actually edible. I never grew up wanting for any of the basics like food and shelter, and though my mom grew up in a low-middle class home she didn't go hungry either - so neither of us can explain our frugal nature (except that we have a Scottish background and she grew up in a Jewish neighbourhood - her words not mine!).

And yet, here we are for another Waste Not Want Not Wednesday (and Allergy-Free Wednesday). Granted, I planned the leftovers to make this, since it had been a while since I had made my dad anything savoury and when we were breaking down the lamb for our Easter stew my mom was leaving a lot of meat on the bone which I knew I could salvage! I stuck the pieces into a plastic bag and froze it for when I had other remnants perfect for a good, hearty dish - and when some end-of-the-line baby carrots, half a gigantic onion, a sad-looking tomato and a Thai chili from the back of our fridge (that had been there since the summer and was still good!) made themselves known I had the makings of one of his favourites - Jamaican curry stew.

Baked in a casserole for 2 hours, this melange of spicy gravy, vegetables and lamb comes out meltingly tender and rich. Being made of "bits and pieces", it also doesn't make a ton of food (even though it just gets better the next day), and the whole thing is not only gluten, nut, egg, refined sugar and dairy-free, but it is deceptively low in fat and filled with fibre!

Jamaican Lamb Curry

Shared with Waste Not Want Not Wednesday #27 at Poor and Gluten Free and Allergy-Free Wednesday at The Tasty Alternative.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sweet Potato Blondies - A #RecipeRedux of Trends

It's slightly sacrilegious of me as a passionate baker and overall foodie, but I never really got the whole cupcake trend. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the fact that I'm lazy (and can't frost worth a darn), so covering all those little cakelets and making them look good is too much of a hassle. Cupcakes dry out incredibly quickly too, so they really should be eaten within a day or two - and considering that a batch of cupcakes usually makes between 18 and 24, who needs that much cake? Then comes the fact that you have to make more cake and frosting per serving, since while a cake that is frosted and decorated once can serve up to 16, but an individual cupcake serves only 1 - and probably has an equal ratio of frosting to cake if its from a bakery! Don't get me wrong, the thought of having your own little dessert is quaint, and they're a perfect option for times when they are being served at different times (think bakesale). But in place of a moist, moderately-frosted wedge of cake? I'll pass on that.

So what then? Well, I vote to do away with the whole "cake vs. cupcake"battle altogether. I think it's time that the bar cookie came back in vogue. Far simpler to make, easy enough to add or take out ingredients from if you so choose, and in almost as many flavours as you can dream up, they're a perfect sweet. Plus, you can keep them nutritious enough for breakfast or a midafternoon snack, or go all out and add chocolate, butter, more sugar and frosting. Or you can do a combination of both (my favourite compromise). You don't have to mess about cleaning individual tins or decorating two dozen servings either, and they are sturdier (read: more portable) than any cake-like counterpart.

Sweet Potato Blondies

So here's my case for the bar - these blondies (if you can call them that, they're more orangies) are sweet, rich, chewy and flavourful, but they're also gluten free and vegan. There is some sugar and fat in them, of course - they are a treat - but the amounts are cut way down (and made more nutritious) through the use of a xylitol blend, sweet potatoes, applesauce and homemade soynut butter. While they're fabulous au naturale, I dipped my toe into the "topping" world and made an orange juice caramel syrup too, keeping them moist and refreshing at the same time.

Are they a replacement for your bowl of oatmeal or your broccoli and brown rice for dinner? Probably not. But with more protein in a (good-sized, I might add) square than an egg, no cholesterol, way less sugar and more fibre than a commercial brownie or blondie and a ton of nutrients like Vitamin A (for good skin and vision), calcium (for bone health, blood pressure and cholesterol control),vitamin C (an antioxidant important for protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling!) and iron (for energy and growth), they might be worth the occasional indulgence!

So where do you stand on cupcakes? Do you want one right now? Or are you over the hype and are looking for a change?

Sweet Potato Blondies

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lamb Stew from Southern France

Who likes a good, hearty bowl of stew?

Lamb Stew of Southern France

Stew VeggiesOne starting with a bowl full of tender veggies...

Lamb Cubes...Followed by some hearty, tender lamb...

Beginning of Lamb Stew...Finished with a fistful of dried fruit and a whole bottle of delicious red wine?

Well, this pot of goodness has it all. My mom and I picked up a whole, bone-in leg of spring lamb while we were out shopping just before Easter, and since we were expecting company for the holiday dinner my mom wanted to make something hearty and slightly exotic to eat but also a meal that was easy on the cook! We also bought a package of whole wheat Israeli couscous, which I'd had (and loved) before but the rest of the family had never tried. This new side dish gave my mom the idea of a low-n-slow stew with the lamb, and left it to me to find a recipe.

Well, I couldn't find a single recipe that really "fit" with my family's needs and tastes - so I cobbled together three or four from different books and websites to create one of our very own! It has everything that a good pot of warming, hearty fare should have: tender chunks of lean meat, a classic mirepoix, lots of garlic and wine, not to mention a hearty, spicy broth made even richer tasting with the flavour of the cracked bone simmering alongside the edibles. Two and a half hours later, the bone is taken out and the remainder is a sight, smell and taste to behold - velvety soft, fork tender and simply begging to be spooned over your favourite rice or grain.

Shared with Gluten Free Friday and Foodie Friday.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Egyptian Fig Roll Cookies

When I was in elementary school, we did a lot of ancient Egyptian studies. My teacher was from Africa, and even though she was of South African Dutch heritage (with a gorgeous accent to match), she had a passion for the world of the pyramids, Sphinx and papyrus. I share that fascination, as well as loving any ancient history, and when I discover a new bit of trivia about an old civilization lost to time I soak it up.

Full to BurstingThat's why when I discovered that the cookie I grew up sharing with my Grandpa, my favourite Fig Newton, was actually rooted in ancient Egypt, I had to revisit it. I finally found a version of the dried fig filling (in a kids Egypt book, nonetheless) that used honey, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom for a heady, exotic feel and definitely wanted to make it the star. For the "wrapping", the ancients preferred a pastry-like flatbread, but I personally like the tender cookie version. I found a perfect recipe on Savory Simple to play with, which wound up becoming a spelt-cinnamon concoction laced with orange and vanilla and just slightly chewy from using egg whites in place of the yolks.

With all the luscious figs tucked inside, these are great for the Eating the Alphabet Healthy Recipe Challenge on Meal Planning Magic! This month we're on E and F - check out what yummies are being cooked up with fruits, vegetables, grains or legumes beginning with these letters!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Better Baked Mac & Cheese for #SundaySupper Movie Night

Are you a foodie when it comes to movies?

Food and movies go hand-in-hand. Some movies have food as a star or prominent highlight. This week the #SundaySupper crew is all about the movies and the recipes they inspire. Whether it's the whimsy of the genius rodent in Ratatouille, the close-to-home blogger saga of Julie & Julia or the heartwarming feastaval of Big Night, food has never been so entertaining! This event is hosted by Heather from girlichef - Thanks Heather!

My recipe for Baked Mac & Cheese is actually something I never made before I started working at the school. Growing up, M&C meant breaking out the blue box of Kraft Dinner and mixing the powdery, neon cheese into limp noodles. Granted, the stuff was delicious enough in it's own right, especially day-old and mixed with spaghetti sauce, leftover chopped turkey and frozen peas. But homemade mac? A whole other animal, and frankly, an equally good (if not a tiny bit better) cheesy meal for the whole family when you have a few extra minutes to bake the dish while making a salad and setting the table. The sauce takes less time to make than the pasta takes to cook, and the baking is more a formality than anything, to brown the crumbs and get that nice crispy crust.


I took my inspiration from the movie Soul Food, about the interweaving lives of a southern family that always convened for a Sunday dinner. Since mac and cheese is the epitome of that cuisine for me, and was one of those meals that really does remind me of the whole family, I thought it was perfect for this week's event.

Check out what the rest of us are watching, cooking and eating this week!

Toast (bready things)

No Reservations (soups and salads)

Today's Special (fish, chicken, beef, and pork)

Forks Over Knives (veggie-heavy dishes and sides)

Udon (pasta and noodles)

Just Desserts (sweet treats)

Bottle Shock (beverages)

Sunday Supper Movement

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on Twitter on Sunday, April 14th to talk all about movies that have inspired us to head into the kitchen - and the food that comes from that inspiration (7pm EST)!  We’ll tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world.   Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag, and include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more delicious recipes and food photos.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Death By Triple-Chocolate Cookies

While most readers out there don't fall in the same boat as me, I'm constantly finding myself cooking for either an army (at work) or one (at home). It's an interesting contrast for me, and yet both positions are incredibly similar in the fact that recipes or instructions for preparing food are almost never present for either number. If you're cooking for four to eight, sometimes ten, people, you can find any number of reliable recipes at your disposal that use realistic ingredients and equipment. Getting above or below that, though, and you find yourself either buying six of something to make up the quantity needed or using two tablespoons out of a family-sized jar and having the rest languish in the fridge.

Death By Triple-Chocolate Cookies
The frustration and occasionally over-complicated process of cooking "for one" is why I was kind of excited to find this XXL Death by Chocolate Cookie over on Sally's Baking Addiction. It was the perfect idea - a single, plate-sized, thick and chewy behemoth of chocolate cookie goodness - technically serving two (or more!), but really... if you're anything like me (or any other woman I know!) that cookie isn't making it into anyone else's line of sight. I doubled the SBA recipe just so that I wouldn't have half an egg hanging around, added a hint of hot cocoa mix and used salted butter for an extra pop of flavour. Miniature dark chocolate chips meant I could get away with using slightly less overall, but of course I had to add the sprinkles - these cookies are too ridiculously fun not to!

Death By Triple-Chocolate Cookies
With a pen for comparison
Shared with Sugar & Slice Sunday #23
Death By Triple-Chocolate Cookies
As big as your head!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Fillets Of Sole Bonne Femme for #WeekdaySupper

What do you think of when it comes to French cuisine? Frog legs? Escargot? Croissants? Or copious amounts of wine and cheese? A lot of people shy away from making French food at home because so much of it is a complex, multi-layered or lengthy process to make. But while I won't argue with a dish of decadent Coq au Vin or a lovingly crafted, slow-rising baguette, our favourite dishes from that country are neither pretentious, complicated or overly expensive to create at home. One of them, of course, is a staple of our Summer harvest - ratatouille. This one tends to come to the table in the colder weather, especially around the holidays in December, and it's one of those "perfect" entertaining dishes because it only takes minutes to whip together, is rich and indulgent and looks fancy!

Called Fillet Of Sole Bonne Femme, we actually found this decadent meal in the pages of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And really, how can you go wrong with Julia Child? The basic idea is that fillets of sole (you could use haddock, cod or orange roughy too) gets oven-poached in a mixture of wine, fish stock and mushrooms, then blanketed in a cream and Gruyere (or Swiss) cheese sauce and broiled. It's also a good "entry level" fish dish for those who aren't too sure if they like it, because sole is very mild in flavour and is almost always tender. Every time we've served it to mixed adult / child groups, we've never heard a complaint from either age range!

Fillet Of Sole Bonne FemmeWe tend to serve this for company (to limit our butter and cream consumption), but given that it is so simple to whip up, uses ingredients you can find almost anywhere and actually does store well (it is delicious cold on toasted French bread), its a fish and mushroom dish you could make on a weeknight without a second thought! If you choose to reheat it though, do it gently in a covered dish so the mixture doesn't dry out and get gummy.

For my #WeekdaySupper selection!

Sunday Supper Movement

Check out the other #WeekdaySuppers below:

Monday – Paula/Vintage Kitchen - Apple Brown Rice Salad with Pomegranate and Pistachios
Tuesday – Bea/The Not So Cheesy Kitchen – Potato Leek Soup with Little Bites {Sausage}
Wednesday – Diana/Gourmet Drizzles – California Chicken with Mediterranean Pilaf
Thursday – Sarah/What Smells So Good? – Sole Bonne Femme
Friday – Nicole/Daily Dish Recipes – Fish Tacos with Baja Cream Sauce

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Nutella Meringues

Even before we became a family blended with a very proud contingent of Italians, we were fans of Nutella. For years, it was the only thing my sister would eat in a sandwich, on toast or with crackers, and for me, it was the combination of Nutella and peanut butter on a bagel that would get me excited for breakfast. For years, the chocolate-hazelnut spread was even allowed in our school, which in retrospect was a bit odd given that there was a "no nut" policy in place!

Now our household has two fully grown adults with a child-like penchant for the spread, as well as a constant flurry of guests and the occasional (sneaky) indulgence from my stepdad, we buy Nutella by the family pack. For a while, we were buying the extra-large double-packs every month! Granted, we probably still would be, except that my stepbrother bought himself a couple extra-extra-large Christmas gifts last year:

5 Kilos

Yes. Five kilos of Nutella.The sad thing is that the photo above is the second jar, and it was three-quarters full! Given that there was such a quantity of goodness kicking around, I was itching to make something with it - and when a combination of holiday and school-day cooking left me with some extra egg whites kicking around, I remembered a recipe I had seen on Cream Puffs in Venice a year or so back. Ivonne (a fellow Torontonian!) had come up with the ingenious idea to make standard meringue cookies laced with ribbons of the spread, which not only taste delicious but look gorgeous. Please don't take my horrible photo as evidence... Ivonne's are far prettier!

Nutella Meringues

You'd think that adding sweet Nutella to a meringue recipe, already laden with sugar in order to keep its structure, would result in instant diabetic shock and tooth decay. Ironically though, the underlying nuttiness of the spread cuts the one-note taste of white sugar and makes the cookies themselves seem less sweet than usual.

Shared with Sugar & Slice Sunday 
Gluten Free Fridays, Gluten-Free Wednesday and What’s In Your Kitchen Wednesday

Monday, April 8, 2013

Apple Spice Snacking Cake

I'm a sucker for a spicy, easy to grab chunk of coffee cake. Whether it's super-crumby, butter-packed and so sweet lesser mortals would go into instant diabetic shock, or the lesser evils like the yogurt-based and vegan goodies out there, chances are if it's got a good whack of cinnamon in it and the cake itself is tender and delicious, I'll swipe a piece. Only recently did I start incorporating fruit into my snacking / coffee cakes in more ways than "mashed bananas" or "applesauce", but I was struggling to keep the cake from becoming chewy from the lack of fat, grainy from the flour, and bland without a super-buttery topping.

Apple Cinnamon Coffee CakeI was lucky enough to get an advance copy of The Newlywed Cookbook by Robin Miller a few months ago, which sparked a cooking and baking spree as I was writing my review. One of the recipes my mom and I both earmarked was the Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake (p. 189) and it was no question that it would be first on my list to make! Unfortunately, the first version (as written) was spongy, almost spiceless (no cinnamon in an Apple Cinnamon cake?) the and far too sweet for a "breakfast" or "snack" cake. The other issue was that the original recipe adds the topping after the cake is baked - which fell right off and seemed like a waste of time and effort.

Learning from version 1, I made a batch of chunky applesauce and set about playing with the recipe's ingredients and method. Most significantly, I added almonds and pecans to the topping and patted it onto the uncooked batter before putting it in the oven, making for a slightly crunchy crust that stuck. I also cut the total amount of sugar, used vanilla almond milk to moisten, chucked in a dash of whole grain spelt flour and (of course) put spice in the actual cake itself.

Verdict? Definite success - flavourful, moist and just rich enough on it's own! If you don't want to make your own chunky applesauce, just see my notes for using premade pie filling - yes, pie filling - instead. It's a wonderful morning snack, and with a scoop of frozen yoghurt you can even have a bona fide dessert on more weeknights!

Shared with

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sweet n' Spicy Baked Beans for a Budget #SundaySupper

I make no secret of the fact that I'm extremely "part time" employed. I know that if I was out on my own, without the support of two families to help me, I would be in line at the food banks, sleeping in shelters and definitely not writing a food blog. I live comfortably at the moment, but my mom and I are both bona fide frugalistas and we look for practical ways to reduce our spending, whether it be on clothes, books or food. As a result, we do shop at the bulk stores, we do pick up inexpensive, well-fitting clothes at the Superstore (hello, Joe clothing!) and we swipe our library more than our credit cards when it comes to books.

These days have been hard on everyone economically, regardless of income or job status. Cost of living is increasing, including the prices of fresh meat, fish and produce - not even thinking about the prices for special dietary items should you require them! Thankfully, "real" foods that are gluten free and vegan are still relatively cheap - not to mention healthier than the pre-made ones - and while it wasn't a conscious decision of ours to buy less meat and processed goods, our meals at home tend to reflect the more "peasant" style of rustic, hearty cooking than your traditional "meaty" main and overcooked side dishes.
Sweet n' Spicy Baked Beans
This week, the #SundaySupper crew is all about good food on a budget. Join us and share recipes that won't break the budget! These baked beans are perfect for a hearty, nutritious and cheap dinner main, especially served alongside a crust of grainy bread or roasted potatoes. Check out the other goodies below!

Starters, Soups, and Salads



Drinks and Desserts

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on Twitter Sunday! We’ll tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm EST. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag, and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest boardfor more delicious recipes and food photos. This event is co-hosted by Lane of Supper for A Steal and Pam of Blueberries and Blessings - Thanks Lane & Pam!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Berbere Spice Mix

Spice should have been my middle name. I can't cook anything without adding something from my spice cabinet - be it a healthy handful of coarse-ground black pepper on a salad, cinnamon on toast, mustard and fennel seed in pizza sauce (try it, it's amazing!) or garlic in pretty much anything that graces my plate. I use enough spices in my diet to warrant buying them in bulk, which both saves money and usually equates to fresher, more unique products too. The problem I find with a lot of spice blends out there (namely chili and curry powders) is that they contain fillers or other adulterants, which not only mess with the flavour profile but are potentially harmful to your health! I can't deny the handiness of a spice blend though, which is why every so often you'll find me with my entire spice cabinet strewn over the counter, mixing everything from taco seasoning to this exotic Ethiopian blend.

Berbere SpiceBerbere is a boon to the cook with a passion for flavourful heat - almost the whole spice cabinet goes into the recipe, from sweeter cardamom and allspice to heady cloves and a burst of hot cayenne. I've used it for almost everything - roasted cauliflower and potatoes, as a dry rub for tofu, mixed with rice, and even stirred into honey and spread on pita bread. Of course, like any "chili" powder or spice mixture, the possibilities are almost endless - traditionally you'd put it into the wat family of legume soups and stews, but I like the suggestion from Food Network's website of making a BBQ sauce with it or adding a spoonful to a long, slow braised dish (a la Gourmet Britain).

Shared with My Meatless Mondays, Meatless Monday, Tasty Tuesdays, Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, Gluten Free Fridays and Wellness Weekends

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake and Raspberry Compote

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me...

Well, sort of. It is my birthday today, but this isn't my birthday cake. This is from my mom's birthday party this year - and since the two of us have such similar taste preferences (and chronologically close birthdays), I've been living (and eating) vicariously through her for the past 10 years or so.

Both of us marked "big" birthdays this year, which means next to nothing on my end, but for her entailed the entire Italian stepfamily coming by for a grand dinner the size of our Christmas Eve feast. This is nothing overly "new" in terms of birthday dinners here - regardless of the number of candles on the cake, if it's a family birthday you can be sure to find yourself in attendance with the other 18 or so members of our mini-Mafia.

Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake
With so many people, especially those with the voracious appetites of my stepfamily, there is a lot of food served at these gatherings. From the canapes, cocktails, bread and salad to the mandatory pasta and (of course) a meaty main and a few veggie sides, its a wonder that by the time the dishes are finally cleared by nine-ish that there is still a call for coffee and sweets. Luckily, appetites are quelled enough by then that it only takes a small "taste" of something to satisfy, and when it's a treat as rich as this cheesecake is, a tiny nibble is all you need at any rate.

While this cake is undoubtedly rich, creamy and decadent, it isn't too sweet - leaning more towards the bitter edge of cocoa and 70% chocolate coupled with the tang of cream and mascarpone cheeses as well as sour cream for body. It's still sweet enough to stand out as a dessert without need for topping or garnish, but we served a simple, bright raspberry compote in a gravy boat for optional drizzling and those who partook gave rave reviews for the flavour combination.

What's your favourite birthday cake? Is it homemade or from a bakery? Personally, I am all about the chocolate, and if it's my mom's Red Velvet all the better :-).

Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake
Makes 16 rich slices
1 ¾ cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (about 5.5 oz)
3 tbsp orange juice
3 tbsp melted butter

10 oz bittersweet chocolate (at least 70%, preferably couverture), chopped
24 oz cream cheese, room temperature
8 oz mascarpone cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp sour cream
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9” springform pan and line the base with parchment.
  2. Mix all the crust ingredients together well.
  3. Press evenly onto the bottom (not the sides) of the prepared pan.
  4. Bake just until set, about 6 minutes.
  5. Set aside while preparing filling. Keep oven on.
  1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or over a pot of simmering water until smooth and glossy.
  2. In a bowl, beat cheeses, sour cream, brown sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt until smooth. Blend in eggs, 1 at a time.
  3. By hand, fold in the chocolate until just blended in, trying not to incorporate air.
  4. Pour filling over crust and rap sharply on a countertop to dislodge air pockets.
  5. Smooth the top and place in a deep roasting pan.
  6. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan, about ½ way up the side of the springform.
  7. Bake until center is just set and just appears dry, about 1 hour.
  8. Turn the oven off and cool the cheesecake inside for 1 hour, then remove from the oven and waterbath and cool 1 hour on a rack.
  9. Run a knife around the side of cake to loosen the ring, but do not remove it.
  10. Cover loosely and chill overnight before removing the ring and slicing.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 441.6
Total Fat: 34.0 g
Cholesterol: 99.5 mg
Sodium: 226.6 mg
Total Carbs: 38.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.3 g
Protein: 7.7 g

Raspberry Compote
Makes about 1 1/2 cups, 12 servings 
2 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)
3 tbsp honey
juice of ½ an orange (preferably a blood orange)
Pinch salt
2 tbsp cold water
1 tsp cornstarch
  1. Place raspberries, honey, orange juice and salt in a small saucepan.
  2. Bring to a low simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries are mostly broken down, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk together the cold water and cornstarch until smooth and stir into the cooking mixture.
  4. Cook until mixture thickens.
Amount Per Serving 
Calories: 33.5
Total Fat: 0.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 0.3 mg
Total Carbs: 8.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.6 g
Protein: 0.3 g