Sunday, June 30, 2013

Funfetti Fluff Cheerio Treats (a BBQ #SundaySupper Treat!)

The end of the school year is so interesting to deal with as a cook. Not only are the kids going nuts because it's warm outside and they can see the "vacation light" at the end of the tunnel, but you find yourself stuck with the ends of things like milk, crackers, arrowroot cookies, cereal, produce, meat and condiments. Some of these were unopened by the end of the last day (the 21st), so I could at least bring them to the food bank - but when it came to the open stuff the last two weeks of class were filled with random "toss in" ingredients (not that I followed a standardized recipe anyway). Chicken noodle casserole got an extra layer of cheese, spaghetti sauce got a dollop of pizza sauce and a whack of pureed veggies, meatballs got made by hand at home (we usually resort to pre-fab for time / safety concerns) with a host of fun "use ups" (yes I will share that), and cereal made it into everything baked. And I mean everything... muffins, brownies, cookies, trail mixes and fruit crumbles all got either crisp rice or Cheerios as a "surprise" addition.

Considering that we only bought cereal in "jumbo" boxes, I was flabbergasted that I got through as much as I did - now I only have two half boxes sitting in my pantry! One of my favourite "flash of duh" moments was after making a batch of Rice Krispie Squares for one of the school "party" events - we had a ton of Cheerios hanging around, and cereal squares are cheap, easy and kid-friendly, so why not switch up the main ingredient? By the end, I managed to shove 425 grams (just over 15 cups) of them into the bars, plus a few jars of Marshmallow Fluff and a handful of candy coated chocolate!

Cheerio Bars

We toted the bars to the "end of the year picnic" as the dessert for the hot-dog meal, and the leftovers became "afternoon snack" with a cereal (surprise!) trail mix and most of the leftover watermelon and grapes (the hot dogs on the other hand, became this). These are such a perfect sweet to bring to a potluck, picnic or BBQ, when you don't want to fuss with a grand cake, don't have cooler space or enough ice for ice cream, don't want the bother of washing utensils to eat and need to appeal to both kids and adults alike! Not to mention you don't have to fire up the oven, and with the premade Fluff (a total revelation to me when my predecessor in the school kitchen told me about it), you hardly have to turn on the stove either.

This week for #SundaySupper Jennie at The Messy Baker is hosting a Summer BBQ Party with the crew - and you're invited! Together we have everything you’ll need to throw a delicious summer barbecue party this season... from grilled goodies to side dishes, desserts and even a cold beverage or three. You can't go wrong when this many cooks are (out of) the kitchen!

Hot Off the Grill:

On the Side:

Sweet Tooth:

In the Cooler:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lemon-Raspberry Sugarless Cookies

Does anyone else find it absolutely insane that June is almost over? I swear, it was only yesterday that I was making Red Velvet Popcorn for Valentine's Day, and now it's 5 days away from Canada Day (and 9 days away from the 4th of July!).

With the two biggest patriotic holidays (for those of us in the Canada/US camps, anyway) knocking, what better time than now to have another #holidayfoodparty? Jen is at it again as our fearless host, and we have 14 delectable treats this roundup!

Canada Day CookieI knew I wanted to do something "flag related" for the nations celebrating this first week of July, and to me the easiest way to get those iconic images onto the plate was with a cookie! I also really wanted to try out the capabilities of the PureVia Granulated style stevia in it's purest "bakeable" form - a sugar cookie. I made two versions of a veganized recipe, using non-hydrogenated shortening so that the butter flavour wouldn't influence the sweetness test. The results of the "plain" cookie tasting were surprising - only one person (my supertaster sister) could tell that the baked 100% sugar free cookies were different than my control recipe with sugar (raw dough, however, fooled nobody - they knew there was "something off" with the PureVia version)! I liked making this 100% sugar free dough a whole lot more than the sugar-filled one too - it came together easier and baked flatter without spreading!

Moving forward, I added colour and flavour to pieces of the dough, then cut out rectangles and the necessary parts of each flag to assemble my art. The combination of the raspberry "red" and lemon "white" doughs was a hit, as was the design of each cookie. Lacking the moisture-retaining capabilities of sugar, however, the cookies did stale faster than usual... but I skirted that issue by only baking a few at a time, keeping the rest of them assembled and carefully packed in the freezer for a la minute cookie cravings!

July4 Collage 3

1. Berry Cheesecake Crumb Tart from Hungry Couple NYC
2. California Burgers from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
3. 4th of July Ice Cream Cones from Roxana's Home Baking
4. Red, White & Blueberry Parfaits from Cravings of a Lunatic
5. Red, White & Blue Deviled Eggs from Created by Diane
6. Summer Berry Pizza from Magnolia Days
7. Sparkling Pineapple Cake Martini from The Messy Baker
8. Red, White & Bleu Mac 'N Cheese from Juanita's Cocina
9. Red, White & Blue Vanilla Bean Spritzers from Pineapple and Coconut
10. Red, White & Blue S'mores Pies from Big Bears Wife
11. Lemon Raspberry Sugarless Cookies from What Smells so Good
12. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Squares from Chocolate Moosey
13. Berry Trifle from Jen's Favorite Cookies
14. Watermelon Mojito Ice Pops from Girl in the Little Red Kitchen

Old Gl(ookie)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Spicy Plum Sauce

We ate our fair share of Chinese (well, Chinese-American) takeout when I was growing up. I can fondly remember the lo mein, the mixed steam-fried veggies, the Singapore style vermicelli, the sweet and sour pork, and (my personal favourite) the crispy ginger-garlic beef... all spread out on the table with the requisite egg and spring rolls, with the quintessential fortune cookies for dessert. I can't remember a time when our grease-stained paper bags didn't also contain about 20 packets of assorted sauces, too - from soy to sweet and sour to the oddly named "duck sauce". A few would get used by my parents (I hated the "restaurant style" packets, preferring the plum sauce from the supermarket) and the rest would go into the fridge, slowly creating a mountain that my mom would eventually throw out when it overflowed the drawer.

I think the main reason I wasn't (and still aren't) a fan of most plum (or "duck") sauces is that they are far too sweet and "fake" tasting. I don't know about you, but if I'm eating something labeled as containing a specific ingredient, I want it to actually contain a decent amount of it, and more than that I want it to taste like that ingredient. I happened to catch a glimpse of the back of our current bottle of plum sauce in the fridge and was saddened (yet not surprised) by what I read: "sugar, pumpkin, white vinegar, modified corn starch, plum purée, salt, concentrated lemon juice, garlic (contains soybean oil), red jalapeño pepper, citric acid, acetic acid, caramel colour". Hmmm, okay... so it's sugar-pumpkin sauce, is it?

Then I came across a promising-looking recipe in Put 'em Up! Fruit by Sherri Brooks Vinton that actually used plums, and looked to be a "grown up", more sophisticated blend than the glorified syrup I remembered. Since they were in season (and cheap!) at the farmer's market, I picked up a basket of black plums, then on the weekend I followed it up with a big bag of bright red Flavour Rosa Plumcots for good measure. The recipe only calls for garlic, ginger and the Chinese five spice, but I added onion powder, turmeric, white pepper and extra garlic for a slightly more varied flavour. I also opted for organic coconut sugar over plain brown, and since I ran out of the called for cider vinegar I added white wine vinegar to make up the difference. 

I let it simmer down (I strongly suggest cooking it covered first until the plums soften, otherwise you'll have to add more water than I did), then pureed it and let it cook some more until it was the consistency of ketchup. I canned most of it to give as "end of the year" gifts for the teachers, leaving about 3/4 of a cup in a jar in the fridge to use right away. It was great the day of, but two days later when I used some on eggplant steaks (in place of the hoisin) the flavours had mellowed and blended, and I know that as soon as my family gets ahold of it it will become condiment numero uno, or is that 编号0?!

Five Spice Plum Sauce

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fudgy Brownie Mix in a Jar - a Desserts In Jars #SundaySupper

I don't know about you, but we are a family of brownie lovers. To the women in the household, at least, the perfect brownie is dark, fudgy, and not super sweet, with a bit of a chew but in no way rubbery or tough. I've made my fair share of brownies over the years, from the classic melted chocolate and butter concoctions to uber healthy, vegan and gluten free ones, but I always seem to come back to the middle ground of a cocoa-based bar with a moderate amount of sugar, flour and chocolate chips.

I grew up on the basic boxed brownie mix, as did my sister, and I have to agree it's hard to beat the convenience when you're hit with the "ohmygosh, I need a brownie NOW" craving - but as I grew older (and admittedly more "foodie-like"), I began to notice the slight "off" flavours the premade mixes carried. Nothing overly offensive, but a cardboardy undertone and a one-note, too-sugary sweetness eventually drove me out of the store-bought mix camp permanently and into the kitchen. To keep the convenience factor of the inspiration, I began to whip up my own brownie dry mixes - first as Christmas gifts for friends with baking aspirations (but little kitchen experience), then as a way to be able to whip up a batch of fudgy, homemade bars for my (uber-brownieholic) sister in less time than it took her to drive home from her part-time home in Guelph. Like all the "mix" recipes in Shaina Olmanson's book Desserts in Jars: 50 Sweet Treats that Shine, it's classic, simple, reliable and above all, delicous!

Fudgy Brownie Mix in a Jar

This week’s #SundaySupper is all about Desserts in Jars, inspired by Shaina Olmanson’s cookbook (see my review of Desserts in Jars: 50 Sweet Treats that Shine here). We all came up with our own "jarred" recipes – some exactly like the recipes in Olmanson's book, others with a twist on tradition! Not only are we singing the praises of this book, we want you to try it yourself - many of this week's #SundaySupper bloggers will be giving away copies of Desserts in Jars too! Check out all the blogs below to participate, and good luck!

Sunday Supper Desserts In Jars:

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here. Also check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos!

For even more fun, be sure to join us during the #SundaySupper Twitter chat tonight at 7PM ET to win tickets to the Food and Wine Conference including a 2 night stay at the beautiful Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando! Entering is easy - just join in the chat using the #SundaySupper hashtag. The Desserts In Jars Summer Tour will be hosting live events around the country.  Check out the events and join in the fun in city near you!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Butterscotch Banana Birdseed Bars (#RecipeRedux)

Now that we've reached the end of the school year, my task as the cook has turned from churning out the "approved" menus to finding creative ways of using up the last of our groceries by the end of today. I have found myself making things I never thought I would this week - applesauce muffin-bread with ground cereal for flour, chicken hot dogs on pizza, egg salad sandwiches made with a combination of mayo and French onion dip... you get the picture. While I'm being forced to clean out our school kitchen (since the place is shutting down, sadly), the "pantry challenge" is carrying over to my home life too. It's been a while since I looked through my baking shelves, and let me tell you - it was definitely time to get using some of this stuff.
Butterscotch Banana Birdseed Bars
I wound up combining bits from both school and home when it came to making these moist bars. Tender, butterscotchy batter filled with caramelized bananas got peppered with the dregs of some of my seed bags and a spoonful of ricotta. While the recipe looks long and drawn out, in reality it's fairly simple to execute and the flavours meld into a profile similar to a slightly upscale banana bread. It's nice enough to serve with a drizzle of raspberry coulis or cherry sauce for a romantic summer dessert, but unfussy enough that you can toss a few chunks into your hiking bag or pack the whole thing for a picnic lunch. Who knows, the birds might even appreciate the "birdseed" bits too!

This month's #RecipeRedux is all about the seeds - adding crunch to pasta, salads, puddings, granola and even cakes and bars like this!

Butterscotch Banana Birdseed Bars

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Toast Topper # 20: Spicy Chili Oil

Summer means turning up the heat, whether it be campfires or grills. But that heat is also front and centre on the plate. Even though the nights of long-simmered stews and chili are past, there are few cookouts that I can remember where there wasn't a spicy bowl of salsa, guacamole or at least a dish of Spicy Italian Peppers in Sauce to top the burgers and dogs.

One of the new family favourites around here is homemade pizza. This was actually my stepbrother and his fiancee's doing - after he picked up a giant restaurant-issue pizza peel at the local supply house with a mind to become the next Luigi. Ironically, neither of them are skilled in the kitchen (Nicole can do the basic pasta and occasionally broiled chicken breasts, while my stepbrother Dan just learned how to make an omelet on the stove a few months back after a steady diet of ramen), but they took the task to hand with storebought dough (as well as a just-add-water-and-oil mix I gave them) and have since been making respectable pies both in the oven and on our charcoal grill.

Given that my stepfamily in general are fans of anything spicy, as soon as I found out they had bought a house I cooked up a batch of this spicy chili oil as a housewarming gift. It only gets better with age, as the hot peppers from the garden that I dried last year absorb and release the flavourless canola oil surrounding them. Of course, if you don't have home-dried Thai chilies, you can find any assortment of whole peppers on the shelf of your local ethnic market (and even in some better-stocked grocery stores). Pick the ones you like - but I would err on the side of hotter ones, since you're only using them as flavouring, not eating them whole!

Whether it's jazzing up homemade pizza dough, drizzling on focaccia, dunking crusty rolls, whipping up vinaigrette or even spicing up dessert, I'm sure you'll find space in your cupboard for a bottle (or two) of this oil.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chewy Oat Cookies with a Banana Bread Influence for a Father's Day #SundaySupper

I'm in the running for the worst daughter of the year. For the second year in a row, I've done nothing for my Dear Old Man on either his birthday or Father's Day! Okay, well, I did make (print) him a card for both days this year, but it seems like as the years wear on, the days where I'd gleefully present my dad with some piece of junk (picked up from a garage sale or dollar store with my allowance) are becoming more and more faded. Not that I'd know what to buy him anyway. I don't know about you, but I find my parents incredibly hard to buy for! Part of it is that what I would really want to give them I simply can't afford (like the Jag for my mom), but I've simply run out of unique ideas too. I'm thinking a game of golf (again)... not a bad option, given that we both like the "walk in a park" as we call it!

The other thing my dad and I share is a love of food. It's a symbiotic relationship of sorts - he loves to eat a wide variety of cuisine, and I love to cook from cultures all over the world. Sometimes, though, it's the food closest to home that stands out above the rest. When it comes to desserts, there is nothing I associate with my dad more than banana bread (except perhaps peanut butter banana bread). Now that Summer is here, my dad is on the road a lot (up and down from the trailer, fishing, family events and helping my sister out at her apartment), so it only made sense to convert that favourite dessert into something a little more portable - hence the birth of this chewy, banana and chocolate-laced oatmeal cookie. With tons of thick-cut oats, toasted walnuts, chocolate covered cacao nibs and dried bananas, its the best of both worlds. There isn't even that much sugar in the batter, which is a boon for my dad (a pre-diabetic) as well as anyone who's watching their calories, carbs or blood glucose for other reasons. Feel free to take a second one, and pack a third for the trip home!

Chewy Oat Cookies with a Banana Bread Influence

This #SundaySupper is all about Dad and the foods we think of when it comes to Father's Day.  Our Sunday Supper Movement group has become an extended family, sharing birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, successes and struggles, and I wholeheartedly agree with Isabel when she says how honoured she is to celebrate with all the special Dad’s, Grandfathers, Uncles and families that have been brought together by this event. Check out the special recipes below, then get out and spend some time with your favourite guy! Just be sure to pop back in time for our weekly #SundaySupper chat at 7PM EST!

Dad’s Favorite Main Dishes:

Dad’s Favorite Appetizers and Sides:

Dad’s Favorite Desserts
Join our Twitter #SundaySupper chat tonight at 7:00 pm EST by following the #SundaySupper hashtag throughout the day and using it yourself to share your own tips and recipes. Also be sure to check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for even more delicious recipes and photos!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Apple Crumble Slab Pie - Eating the Alphabet!

Some days just call for pie. In the Fall it makes sense: fire up the oven to keep the house warm, bake 1 or 2 (or 8 if you're us after apple season), enjoy them with your holiday meals. In the Summer, though, there are fewer "fancy" events like sit down dinners, and it's just too darn hot to crank up the oven to make two or three pies for the company picnic or family BBQ.

Yet nothing still says Summer like a good old fashioned pie, and if you're American and follow the adage, you know there's nothing better than apple. I adore my mom's au naturale style of pie myself, but that really only works with small scale 9" or 10" covered pastries. When I was faced with the prospect of having to make an apple dessert for school dessert a few weeks back, I knew that a bunch of round pies weren't practical - for one, the kids basically do snack with their hands (excepting items like applesauce and yogurt), and for another, there are 40 kids (plus teachers)! So I started planning a conglomeration of sorts. My favourite pie dough (made eggless for allergies) got rolled out nice and thin and placed on a cookie sheet, then my mom's Apple Square topping made it into a bowl for the crunch. For the filling, I tried something new, using a blend of Pyure Bakeable Blend Stevia Sweetener, "regular" sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch along with a healthy (pun intended) pile of sliced Jonagold and Honeycrisp apples. The combination makes for perfectly sweet slices you can hold in your hand (carefully!)or serve up on a plate with a scoop of ice cream. With the "J" in Jonagold, these are my entry to this month's Eating the Alphabet Healthy Recipe Challenge ("I" and "J") on Meal Planning Magic.

Apple Slab Crumble Pie

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tutti - Fruity Breakfast Bread

I'm not supposed to advocate cake for breakfast. I mean, have three years of nutrition college taught me nothing? I'm supposed to be touting plain steel cut oats or a slice of melon (alone, apparently, for "optimum digestion") as the first meal of the day - maybe with a cup of warm lemon water. Yeah... that's a reason to wake up every day. Honestly, if those years had instilled me with any sort of the "hyped" dogma you hear (especially in the extremist holistic circles), you wouldn't be reading this blog. There wouldn't be a blog.

Of course, I know that sometimes you need something a little sweeter in the morning. There are days where a virtuous bowl of bran flakes isn't going to cut it, no matter how many bananas or blueberries you pile on. For those days, there's this breakfast bread. Packed with yoghurt, blueberries, bananas and whole wheat, it's a decadent (yet still marginally healthful) breakfast that's tender but not so soft that you can't grab a piece to go as you rush out the door. Alongside a bowl of berries (or toasted and drizzled with chocolate sauce), it's a great Summer BBQ dessert as well!

Tutti - Fruity Breakfast Bread

That said, I'm not saying that baked goods, pancakes and waffles should be a staple of your morning routine. I would much rather they be addressed for what they are - occasional treats to be savoured once in a while, perhaps on the weekend over a leisurely cup of coffee or tea and a fruit salad. But who am I to judge - I used to eat oatmeal only in chocolate chip cookie form!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Banana - Walnut and Ricotta Muffins

Since discovering the joys of homemade ricotta, every time I notice that there is milk hanging around that's nearing expiry I inevitably drag out the pot and sieve to make another batch. While my dairy allergy won't let me have a taste of my hard won delicacy, my family enjoys eating the cheese for me (one of the good things about their Italian heritage!).

Banana-Walnut and Ricotta MuffinsSometimes, though, there is just too much ricotta to go through as a toast spread or stirred into pasta (those are the batches from a large over-purchase of dairy!), so occasionally I have to turn to the cookbooks and internet for a little inspiration. In this case, I needed help un-veganizing my standard fare - not being used to cooking with eggs and dairy at all, I'm more skilled when it comes to making do "without". But ricotta, yoghurt and eggs were almost at the "learning to talk" stage of their lives, and so they weaseled their way into my muffins along with a couple blackening bananas, California walnuts, mini chocolate chips and crunchy cereal for kicks.

Each bite into one of these muffins is a different sensation - one will have a soft, not-quite-pureed bit of banana, another will give you the slight tang of the ricotta with the sweet maple cereal and chocolate chips, yet another will have a buttery note from the walnuts. They're a gem for households (those with no allergies, of course) because they will stay moist and tender for a week in a covered container in the fridge, or you can freeze them and pop one or two in the microwave when your grandma drops by for tea and a chat.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Gluten Free Double Layer Bars

Being a food blogger and nutritionist, I get approached by a decent amount of companies looking for me to review their products. My personal philosophy is that whatever I review, I have to try myself, and I never guarantee a glowing report of anything or accept monetary compensation (I do, however, expect samples of said products). That said, I have had a great time playing around with one of the new stevia products on the market: Pyure Bakeable Blend

This all-natural, almost calorie free (2 kcal/tsp) formulation is similar to granulated Splenda in that it is incredibly lightweight and "bulked up" with maltodextrin. Maltodextrin is needed in cup-for-cup substitutes like this because the stevia is so sweet on it's own that a single teaspoon equals two cups of sugar... just without the volume that cookies and cakes need for structure. That said, the bakeable blend is not identical to sugar in behaviour. It does not hold moisture the same way, nor does it "trap" air bubbles in fat like the real stuff. In fact, it behaves exactly like Splenda does, just without the crazy chemicals and strange aftertaste.

I wanted to see how the characteristics of the blend held up on their own, without adding another sweetener (as I usually do, and still suggest for anything "cakelike"). I figured a bar cookie would be a good way to go, and when I found a rich, dense, chocolate concoction on Blueberries and Blessings I was smitten. Pam's Dark Chocolate Black Bean Cookies are not only gluten free, but they used one of my favourite "secret weapons" in the kitchen: beans! A few tweaks turned it vegan, had it use pureed yellow peas and become 100% sugar free. Then I got the lazy bright idea to do away with the whole "drop" cookie idea and make bars. But not just chocolate ones. Double-layer bars, with blondies on top of brownies, each layer with a handful of extra treats like chocolate chips, vegan butterscotch and cherries!
Gluten Free Bean Cookies (Double Chocolate)Gluten Free Bean Cookies (Butterscotch-CranRaspberry)

The finished dessert is unreal. Dense, chewy, moist and sweet, with the barest hints of coconut flavour and nuttiness from the peas. I decided to use yellow peas instead of the more usual chickpeas after using NoNuts Golden Peabutter and finding that it had a subtly nutty, pleasing flavour that wasn't anything near "beany". The peas are the same ones you'd find in French pea soup (one of my favourite meals)!

Gluten Free, Stevia Sweetened Two-Layer Bars

Shared with Wellness Weekend , Allergy Free Wednesdays and Sugar & Slice Sunday

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Vegan and Gluten Free Apple Almond Butter Cookies for a "Free" #SundaySupper

Even if I had never gotten into "nutrition" as an education/career path, I think I probably would have still fallen in love with the challenge of specialty cooking. I hate watching people struggle with anything (which makes seeing their eventual successes so incredibly rewarding), especially when it comes to something that should be as basic as eating a delicious, wholesome meal three times a day.

Growing up, I knew two people with celiac (a mostly foreign entity back then) and two others who were vegan - and looked at by most people (including me, I'm ashamed to say) as "strange hippies". Specialty food ten years ago was really restricted to the one tiny health food store in the tri-city district, and was comprised of rice-flour bricks labelled "bread", blocks of gelatinous plain tofu, prunes, frozen spinach, dried beans and brown rice. No quinoa, no fancy flours, milk alternatives or gluten free delights like you can find in most "normal" groceries today. Although I never thought at the time that I would become one of the people reliant on many of these modified foods, I'm grateful that by the time I did fall ill with all my GI woes and allergies the world had made great strides towards embracing alternate diets (whether for medical, moral or religious reasons). After years of experimenting in both the "normal" and the "special" baking worlds, I love the challenge of creating safe and delicious fare for everyone to enjoy regardless of their restrictions.  

This #SundaySupper is all about embracing foods that bring "freedom" to the lives and palates of those we share the table with. Whether the need is to fulfill a moral or religious belief, to avoid allergens, or control a pre-existing condition like gout or diabetes, our recipes aim to be gluten-free, dairy-free, fat-free, nut-free, sugar-free, or a combination thereof. This event is being hosted by Beate of The Not So Cheesy Kitchen. Thanks Beate!

  • Dairy, Egg, Gluten, Nut & Soy Free Brown Rice Breakfast Pudding by girlichef
  • Dairy & Nut and Sugar Free Blueberry Tangerine Muffins by Vintage Kitchen
  • Dairy, Egg, Gluten, Nut, and Soy Free Homemade Mango Jam Recipe by Masala Herb

Main Courses





We would love to have you join our Twitter #SundaySupper chat party starting tonight at 7:00 pm EST. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag all day to see the amazing recipes and join the conversation - don't forget to include the hashtag in your tweets as well! Also be sure to check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more delicious recipes and photos.

My cookies come by way of a series of alterations. Beginning with a recipe from The Tolerant Vegan, Jesicakes did some of the work making these nutty, fruity cookies gluten free. I tweaked her version a little further based on her experiences to come up with these!  While the apple adds a heavy dose of moisture, it also creates very tender, very soft cookies that don't travel well, even after a double-baking process like the one I did. They do make good “bar” cookies as well, which travel better for those potluck BBQ parties, but if you're making them for the family who cares - they taste so good that they won't make it past the kitchen door!

Vegan and Gluten Free Apple Almond Butter Cookies

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fresh - Frozen Cranberry Cookies

I love stumbling onto recipes that look like they'd never work out in the end, yet for some inexplicable reason the ratios are all in line to create something not just edible, but delicious. Take into account fresh or frozen berries. Logical to stick into cake or muffins, where their moisture is a welcome addition and the bursts of juice are easily contained. But folded into something as dependent on a certain texture as a cookie, and you can easily go from hopeful anticipation to disappointment in the 10 minutes or so the dough is cooking. I've had my own set of trials with fresh fruit in cookies - finally succeeding to a decent degree with last week's Chocolate-Raspberry Yoghurt Cookies (which were already super-moist), but these cranberry-stuffed gems that I found on just blither blather took the cake (or cookie, as it were).

I wound up using the original recipe as more of a general guideline, since I had to make a good deal of alterations for the assorted dietary restrictions of the prospective eaters they'd be going to. First (and most significantly), I de-glutened and de-nutted the whole batch, then veganized the mixture with virgin coconut oil and flaxseed. To make up for some of the texture I removed, naturally gluten free, slightly sweet polenta fit the bill nicely. Amazingly, the dough behaved exactly like "normal" cookie batter (some GF recipes don't, especially if they're vegan too), and nobody who ate them could believe they were "special diet" safe! Mind you, just because they were made without gluten, nuts, eggs or dairy doesn't mean they were "missing" anything - rather, these babies were packed full of flavour, texture and the potential to be shared with everyone!

Shared with Wellness Weekend and Gluten Free Fridays

Fresh-Frozen Cranberry Cookies

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Schoolroom Chili Mole and Rice

Some days I despair when it comes to the meals at school.

"Chicken Finger Caesar" Sandwiches

That sandwich you see there? Yeah, this is what it was made from in a "case for frugality" (not my case, mind you).


That would be leftover chicken fingers and rice. Which I mixed with Caesar salad dressing, paprika, chives from the garden and Montreal steak spice. Yum, yum. Ironically, a few kids lapped it right up, and one of them took home the leftovers, so go figure. Actually, the mixture, once run through my food processor, took on the look and texture of a fast food "chicken burger", and I was kind of tempted to try pan frying a patty. But no... just, no.

Thankfully, I have more days than not when I am proud of the food I churn out on a daily basis, confident that I'm opening up the palates of youngsters even in a small way. One day when ground-chicken spaghetti sauce was on the docket, I got to introduce the flavours of thyme, rosemary and fennel to both the kids and teachers. When faced with dairy allergies on Mac n' Cheese day, olive oil and garlic noodles tossed with herbs and breadcrumbs was polished off without a second thought.

Yesterday was "chili" - which is an incredibly broad heading for all sorts of variations and nationalities. I tend to stick to the basic "tomatoes, meat and beans" as my base and add chili powder, but after that the game is on. I added just a slight "twist" to the staple this time and added a spoonful of cocoa, adding a rich, dark colour and flavour that helped tame the spice of the dish as well.

Schoolroom Chili Mole and Rice

For good measure (and to stretch the little meat and beans that we actually had on hand, pre-grocery day), I not only chucked in almost every other veggie we had in the building, but rounded out the works with nutty, filling brown rice. The kids are huge fans of rice in any form, and while I did have to rely on the 10-minute variety due to time constraints, leftover long-grain would do just as well in that role. The rice also tempers the sharper heat of the spices and garlic, as well as cutting the tomato acidity just enough for the sensitive tongues in the infant class. The spicy tomato sauce, fresh garlic chili powder and pepper were still a bit strong for some, but alongside their glasses of milk it went down like a dream!

Shared with Waste Not Want Not Wednesday and Allergy-Free Wednesdays

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Chocolate-Raspberry Yoghurt Cookies for a Berry-ful #SundaySupper

Summer berry season has begun! I honestly can't believe it's June already - three weeks of school left and then I have to say farewell to the family I've come to know and love over the past few months. Yes, we've had our differences, but I've never had a better job!

These cookies came about as a result of a happy combination of events last week - finding our kitchen with far too much yoghurt on hand than we would get through before it went "off", I started scouting the Net for flash-in-the-pan muffin recipes using a good amount of it. What I found was even more unique and a far more clever use of the dairy which even fit snugly into the head office's prescribed menu plan - La Fuji Mama's Blueberry Yogurt Cookies. Of course, I used the peach yoghurt we had in place of the plain called for (cutting down the sugar to compensate) and instead of the blueberries (which the kids aren't fans of for some sad reason), a couple containers of raspberries folded their way into the moist batter instead. To keep with my official "school nutritionist" designation, I bumped up the fibre a little bit with wheat bran and for extra decadence threw in chocolate chips. I found the batter extremely wet to deal with after baking a "test" cookie, so modified the baking directions a little in order to have them turn out more "cookie" like. All the kids - from age 2-12 - devoured them, to the teachers' amazement (sometimes they don't trust my new, "outside the box" recipes). I'm so lucky the kids love fruit - and are adventurous eaters!

Chocolate-Raspberry Yoghurt Cookies

This week’s #SundaySupper theme is Summer Berries, hosted by Nicole from Daily Dish Recipes. Our group (as always) has come up with some truly awe-inspiring berry recipes, both sweet and savoury, including desserts, drinks and of course condiments!

Breakfast & Brunch

Sweet & Savory Berry Recipes

Jams, Jelly, Sauces & More


Cocktails, Drinks & Smoothies

Party Planning
Summer Berry Recipes
We'd love if you joined our #SundaySupper chat on Twitter too: we’ll be tweeting all day and sharing recipes. Then at 7:00pm EST we'll start our weekly chat. Please jump in anytime and join us! To join in, just follow the #SundaySupper hashtag, and remember to include it in your tweets. You can also check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more delicious recipes and photos.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Crunchy Caramel Banana Bread

I almost didn't post this. After all, how many banana bread recipes does one blogger (let alone the whole internet) need anyway? But yet here it is - and while this nut-and-seed-filled, double-fruit loaf laced with vegan caramel sauce was a family treat, bananas are a staple fruit at work too. That means that most weeks, come Friday I'm gifted with a few that just couldn't make it into the kids' stomachs, and spend the weekend (and Monday, if I'm lucky enough to swing it) baking up an afternoon treat for them.

Crunchy Caramel Banana Bread

But, like I said, this loaf was for the family - specifically my grandma, who often just "nibbles" through the day without sitting down for an actual "meal", and likes to have at least a little something on hand in the event of company. I've been making a few treats for her over the past few months as she went through the process of selling her house and buying a condo (she moves in a few weeks), just so she wasn't caught short by either guests or the inability to shop (she doesn't drive, so needs rides from friends and family). When I found a tiny bit of leftover Allspice Peach Butter in the freezer nestled with the bananas, I figured I'd add some extra moisture and spice with it - then instead of plain ol' sugar to add sweetness, I whipped up a batch of vegan Simple Salted Caramel Sauce and used it for a richer, nuttier flavour that complimented the seeds and almonds.

It's hard to imagine any banana bread going to waste in my family, and this one was no exception! Wrapped in foil, it stays moist for a week (at least, if it lasts that long), and it's not too sweet, allowing all the goodness to shine through.

Shared with Sugar & Slice Sunday