Sunday, September 29, 2013

Double Banana Pie Krispie Treats #SundaySupper

Sometimes I'm amused by the food "jags" I go on as a cook. Usually it's because I'll be fixated on one ingredient, trying to use up the last of a bag or carton or what have you, and I'll be inspired by so many things (spotted on Pinterest, food photo feeds, TV and even in magazines and books) that I wind up buying more of that key ingredient to try as many as I can!

This happened to me most recently with my bag of brown rice cereal. I had a tiny bit left over from the Grown - Up Crispy Treats and was browsing my way around the 'net when all my senses were struck dumb by Mallow and Co.'s Chocolate Covered Banana Rice Krispy Treats. Even though I'm not a fan of banana pudding (my dad ironically loves it, especially mixed with butterscotch), I love the idea of melding the crisp airiness of the standard cereal with the creamy custard mix, and topping it all with a thick schmear of chocolate never hurts. For a bit of extra texture and flavour, I tossed in some home-dried bananas, and wound up thinning the marshmallow mixture with a splash of milk (not surprising, since my marshmallows were rather dried-out). Spread thick with a milk chocolate coating, they looked every bit as innocuous as their standard Krispie cousins - but the first bite screams otherwise! They're sophisticated enough for adults but simple enough for the youngest child, bringing everyone together for the experience.

Chocolate Banana Cream Pie Krispie Treats

We're crunching our way though #SundaySupper this week from granola to salads, courtesy of Susan. There's no shortage of texture with these entries! 

Crispy Appetizers:
Bitterballen from The Urban Mrs.
Caprese Wontons from Jane’s Adventure in Dinner
Crispy Broccoli Cheddar Bites  from Curious Cuisiniere
Waldorf Salad from Noshing With The Nolands

 Crunchy Entrees and Sides:
Crunchy Baked Chicken with Homemade Shake and Bake  from Growing Up Gabel
Crunchy Crusted Chicken Strips with Chipotle Honey Mustard from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventure
Flautas de Rajas con Queso (Cheesy Poblano Pepper Taquitos) from La Cocina de Leslie
Penny’s Taco Salad from Webicurean
Popcorn Chowder from The ROXX Box
Rosemary Garlic Croutons on layered Savoy Cabbage Soup from The Not So Cheesy Kitchen
Strawberry and Mozzarella Flatbread from Family Foodie

Munch on Snacks:
Crunchy & Chewy Chocolate Hazelnut Granola from Cupcakes & Kale Chips
Crunchy Granola Bars (Better than Nature Valley) from Shockingly Delicious
Crunchy Pumpkin Pie Spice Roasted Chickpeas from Daily Dish Recipes
Duck Fat Chex Mix from The Texan New Yorker
Easy Vegan Granola from Killer Bunnies, Inc
Fried Veg Momos with Cheese Recipe from Masala Herb
How to Make Homemade Sweet and Salty Trail Mix from  Neighborfood
Orange Spiced Cashews from Hip Foodie Mom
Peanut and Pretzel Popcorn Balls from Peanut Butter and Peppers
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds from Hezzi-D’s Cooks and Books
Slow Cooker Bar-B-Q Party Mix from Hot Mamma’s Kitchen Chaos
Sourdough Grissini from girlichef
Spicy Lentil Crackers from Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
Sweet and Spicy Roasted Pepitas from Alida’s Kitchen
Sweet Potato Chips from Kudos Kitchen By Renee
Unbaked Healthy Oatmeal Sesame Bars from My Trials In The Kitchen
Vanilla Almonds from That Skinny Chick Can Bake

Crisp Dessert:
Boo Berry Cereal Treats from Pies and Plots
Choco-Caramel Squares from Basic N Delicious
Chocolate Covered Potato Chip Rice Krispie Treats from The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
Chocolate Pecan Biscotti from The Food Army Wife
Cookie Brittle from Juanita’s Cocina
Double Banana Pie Krispie Treats from What Smells So Good?
Honeycomb Crunch Candy from Food Lust People Love
Momofuku Chocolate Chip Cornflakes Cookies from Ninja Baking
Nutty Wedges with Brown Sugar Whipped Cream from Magnolia Days
Salted Caramel Cashew Cookies from Mess Makes Food
Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We 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 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: Sunday Supper Movement.

Sunday Supper Movement

How do you like to add crispy crunch to your lunch (or supper)?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fruity Ricotta Chocolate Cake

I'll let you in on a secret - I hate mixing fruit and "other flavours". To me, I'm totally good with an apple, peach, plum or orange all on its own, mixed berries or chopped pineapple in a bowl and even scooping mango or kiwi out of its skin. But unless it's a piece of my mom's apple pie or squares or a warm slab of banana bread, I generally avoid adding things to it (and don't get me started on fruit salad! That one's a texture thing). Food combining aficionados love me.

Blackberry Ricotta Cocoa CakeThat said, my mom and grandma love mixing fruit with stuff, especially chocolate. My mom's favourite stocking stuffer is a Dark Terry's Chocolate Orange, and my grandma's weakness is chocolate-dipped berries and cocoa-banana smoothies. The stylists I bring treats to every time I go for a haircut like anything chocolate, so I always know where to look for inspiration!

A while back I made a good deal of creamy Richer Ricotta after buying a few cartons of half & half on sale on a whim. Around the same time, I came into a basket of mixed blackberries and raspberries which I originally was going to put in a pie... until Mom started mixing a handful of them and a scoop of ricotta with her yoghurt pudding at night. For some reason, that became a "lightbulb" moment for me, and I immediately zipped over onto Pinterest where I knew I had saved a chocolate and berry cake made with ricotta cheese.

A brief scan of Playful Cooking's recipe and a few tweaks later (namely adding whole grains, using Pure Via Granular Stevia for half the sugar and making my version an eggless one), a decadent mixture of ingredients found their way into the oven. While it was baking away, I whipped up some Chocolate Sweet Potato Frosting and let it chill while the cake cooled.

Decadent Chocolate Ricotta Cake

Even without frosting, I could tell this cake was going to be a big hit - it was tender and moist without being soggy or dense, had a finely textured crumb speckled with berries and a present but not dominant sweetness. I was surprised that it was tempting even me, given that not only was it a fruity "quad-fecta" (banana, applesauce, blackberries and raspberries) but it was a fruit medley with chocolate and "other stuff"). My mom swiped my trimmings as I was frosting and cutting the cake and declared I was playing favourites by giving it to the girls at the salon and not her!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Strawberry Rubies #12WksXmasTreats

Strawberry Rubies (Phase 2)Yikes! Is it already time for the pre-holiday planning and cooking to start? Apparently it is - there's only 12 weeks until the real crunch begins and I am not going to let myself fall victim to the mad hordes at the mall. Like last year, the bulk of my gifts are going to be homemade preserves, pastas, bakes and spice/drink mixes - both because I'm trying to save money (being unemployed at the moment) and because it's been my experience that people truly welcome a jar, box or bag of homemade treats that were made with love.

Because I am giving most of these as gifts, I am more than willing to splurge on quality for the main ingredients. For these French-inspired, whole strawberries preserved in a caramel-like sugar syrup, it meant local, taste-tested fruit and vanilla-bean infused sugar. I discovered the recipe for the gem-like preserve (aptly named Strawberry Rubies) in a well-worn library copy of Food for Friends: Homemade Gifts for Every Season by Sally Pasley Vargas, and while it's a bit of a process (albeit a mostly inactive one of waiting) the result is more than worth it. Because I only had enough perfect, tiny berries for a quarter batch, I knew I'd be saving the recipe for next year's harvest!

I'm so glad to be participating again this year in the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats hosted at Meal Planning Magic - whether you need inspiration for your own table or for tucking into the holiday baskets of your nearest and dearest, there is bound to be something for everyone to enjoy! We're even set up on Pinterest - come join the over 2400 followers and see what's in store!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Blueberry Pomegranate Butter: Toast Topper #32

I love being able to blend the seasons when I'm making a recipe if I know that the result won't become a muted, muddled mess. Whether it's Winter figs and Spring strawberries, Fall carrots and early Summer radishes or this mixture of wild Summer blueberries and Winter pomegranate juice, the quality and longevity of the ingredients matters as much as what you do with them. I find some of the best applications to be preserves and sauces, especially those with berries, because their whole purpose is to be a flavourful creation for your morning bagel, and berries are freezer-stable enough that they can be found year round with all the flavour of fresh.

Blueberry Pomegranate Butter

When I pulled my bag of locally harvested wild blueberries out of the freezer, my initial idea was to simply remake the Blueberry Butter from last year to include in a gift basket I was putting together. That's when I remembered that I had some pomegranate juice and lemons in the fridge, and on a whim I zested a lemon and added it with the juice to the pot along with the berries, apples, sugar and spices. I had forgotten how delicious the original smelled as it was cooking, but was soon reminded as the mixture simmered away. I made sure to save myself a little to taste before canning the rest, and immediately knew I had to make another batch ASAP to play with in the kitchen!

Shared with Marvelous Mondays

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Maple Syrup Pumpkin Bars for a Fall #SundaySupper

Happy Autumn! The new season officially begins today at 4:44 P.M EDT, and to me that signals the arrival of not only colourful leaves and cooler weather, but the warmth and coziness of the kitchen heating up again. No longer is it too ridiculously hot and humid out to fire up the oven and stove, or break out the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves, and while the cherries and blueberries that filled our bowls in July and August are gone for another year, the apples, figs, pumpkin and squash are starting to arrive.

I was actually surprised that I've made a few pumpkin desserts this year already - not due to their seasonality (since canned pumpkin and apples are essentially seasonless) but because the smell of cooking pumpkin and squash is absolutely stomach-turning to me. I was never a fan of eating pumpkin pie (though I do like pumpkin pancakes and doughnuts), but I've been told I make a mighty fine one. However, once it (or anything with Winter squash) is in the oven, I have to set my kitchen timer, take it with me and retreat to the far side of the house. I'm probably the only one with this weird issue, but there you are!

Anyways, these bars taste fantastic, regardless of their aroma when baking - in fact, I'd venture to say they're better chilled (or frozen, ice-cream sandwich style) and topped with a scoop of frozen yoghurt and maple syrup. Not only are they refined sugar free (thank you, Canadian maple syrup and maple sugar!) but they're also eggless - creating a rich, dense and fudgy cake that makes a great base for toppings (like I mentioned before) or, with a half teaspoon of extra baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda added and caked in a 9" springform, turns into a "snacking cake" or coffee cake perfect for any Fall breakfast table.

Maple Pumpkin Bars

This week's #SundaySupper is a testament to the flavours of Fall. From apples and pumpkin to dates, sweet potatoes mushrooms and kale, the cooler weather won't make a dent in your home with all these warming treats to keep you cozy! This event is being hosted by Soni of Soni's Food. Thanks Soni!

Amazing Breakfasts, Brunches, and Breads

Outstanding Soups, Starters and Sides:

Comforting Main Dishes:

Decadent Desserts:

Tasty Drinks:

Don’t forget to join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm EDT. 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

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Mom's Yoghurt Pudding (#RecipeRedux)

One of my mom's favourite treats these days is yoghurt. Amusingly, she admitted to me recently that she only ate the flavoured varieties while we were growing up to set a "good example", but like my grandfather the plain tubs never crossed her palate and even sweetened and fruit laced it wasn't something she'd go out of her way to eat. When I stopped eating yoghurt (my sister never touched it in the first place) after discovering my dairy issues, she did too - for years.

Mom's Yoghurt Pudding (step 1)How times have changed! Remarriage and family blending took away from the gym time mom was used to, and coupled with heavier, "Italian family dinners" and a lengthy commute, the dreaded post-wedding weight creep made it's appearance. By the time I was in nutrition school she was a willing guinea pig case study for my menu planning course, which introduced her to a lot of recipes in my cookbooks that she loved, as well as a new snack option to address her magnesium deficiency and chocolate-tooth. While I got a few eye-rolls at the beginning, her desire to become healthier (she was maybe 15 pounds more than her "goal" weight, so I refused to drop her crazily low calorically) over-ran her leeriness of yoghurt. Wouldn't you know - what started as her one "sweet treat" on a diet turned into an obsession, and whenever I share it with someone else they fall in love with it too! I even have it on good authority that it's delicious with vegan plain yoghurts too :-). And really, with the combination of Greek yoghurt, unsweetened cocoa, vanilla stevia and a few spoonfuls of jam, it has to taste just as good as it is for your body! 

This month's #RecipeRedux is packed with No-Cook Desserts, and this is just decadent enough to fit the bill!

Mom's Yoghurt Pudding

Friday, September 20, 2013

Strawberry-Kiwi Cocktail Jam: Toast Topper #31

There are few combinations of fruit I like as much as strawberry and kiwi. It's not hard to see the appeal - strawberries (in their peak season) are candy-sweet and enhanced by any sort of tang, which the slightly acidic kiwi provides. However, kiwi is not inherently sour either, like lime and lemon can be, so it is equally flavourful and balancing.

In highschool (my "smoothie" days), I'd regularly blitz up frozen strawberries, fresh kiwi, vanilla or strawberry yoghurt, half a banana and a handful of ice cubes for an afternoon snack - probably the healthiest thing I'd eat the whole day if Mom was running late at work and only had energy to shove pasta and chicken nuggets (or the admittedly delicious takeout pizza) onto our plates. As I got older and was subjected to the sometimes questionable fruit tables in our university cafeteria, it was a rare occasion that I saw either of those fruits - until I came home for breaks! In fact, the predominant "fruit" I witnessed in my post-secondary years was in the form of liquored concoctions. Not being able to drink legally for most of my first year of university, then discovering my alcohol allergy soon after, meant I never got a taste of the tooty-frooty cocktails lining the bar menu: screwdrivers, AppleJacks and Banana Popsicles had literal meanings for me. Don't get me wrong - I wasn't naïve. I was usually able to get virgin versions of my friends' drinks that packed a decent enough flavour on their own, and as a bonus I could remember the drink the next morning!

Strawberry-Kiwi Cocktail JamOne of the drinks that was on every pub night menu during frosh week was the Strawberry Daiquiri. Whether it was made with fresh berries or (more likely) frozen ones, it was creamy, smooth and not too sweet... the perfect cap-off for a day of whatever the seniors wanted us to do that day (even without the rum!). What was awesome about the barista on shift most of those evenings was that she was always up for an experiment if a customer asked for a modification, provided she had the ingredients. When I found out she had kiwi on hand for a special tropical blender, I asked her to spare one for my frosty strawberry mocktail. When I got the glass, I wondered if I had made a mistake - it was an interesting khaki shade that almost mocked me to try it. But once I did, I was hooked. Strawberry-kiwi was once again on my radar, and it's still one of my favourite combinations.

This summer I found myself with a glut of perfect, sweet strawberries after overbuying at two farmer's markets. As much as I love them, I can't eat three pounds at once - and the freezer became my hoarding ground. Problem was, I'd forget I'd frozen some, and because the berries were always on sale I'd buy them every week and keep stashing them! Then, a few weeks ago (right before my mom and stepdad left on vacation) I found my rather embarrassing treasure trove and knew it was time to get down to business. Jam would be made, and since I was still on a strawberry-kiwi jag I knew just the fruit to mix in.

After a brief Internet browse, I came across a recipe from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving: Over 300 Recipes to Use Year-Round that looked perfect to build on. Essentially, the mixture was a kiwi daiquiri in spreadable form, and while the original added dried cranberries I simply eliminated those and swapped half the kiwi mixture for strawberries. A touch of sugar sweetened the pot and Pomona's pectin helped everything stay together. The hardest part was waiting for my little tester jar (sans rum) to cool down before tasting it... but it was so worth it! I even saved a few jars for my jam loving friends this Christmas... if I can stay away from it, that is :-).

Strawberry-Kiwi Cocktail Jam

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Grown - Up Crispy Treats

I had part of a giant bag of brown rice crisp cereal sitting in my pantry after finally getting tired of eating it for breakfast (anyone else go on food jags like that?) and while light, they take up a lot of prime real estate. Not really having the heart to toss the bag before everything went stale, and with tiny jars of both Exotic Apple-Pear Butter and Zapple Butter hanging out in the fridge (the bits that wouldn't fit into the canning jars) I wanted to see what I could do. In one of my online wanderings, I found this recipe on Food52 and was intrigued - would a fruit spread actually work in a marshmallow-less cereal bar, without taking the "crisp" away?

I made some changes to keep the bars vegan, nut free and gluten free - obviously the brown rice cereal and fruit butter went in (I picked the Exotic Apple-Pear Butter this time), but I swapped in flavourful coconut oil for the (equally flavourful) butter, used agave nectar for the corn syrup and using toasted sunflower seeds instead of the walnuts. My home-dried apples added some extra interest and texture, and the whole mix was allergen-free enough to serve at one of my doctor's offices (where it disappeared in a flash!).

Grown - Up Crispy Treats

Shared with Waste Not Want Not Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Citrus and Herb Roast Chicken

Almost every meat eater I know has a soft spot for roasted chicken. Years ago, when I was in that camp, I hankered for the only versions I knew the taste of - from restaurants and the supermarket deli. At home, we never got roasted whole birds (or bone in pieces for that matter) unless it was the Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey, and (as I'm sure happens in every family with whining kids and a gazillion side dishes to think of) they were always a strange combination of greasy skin and dry meat. Interestingly, it was only after I stopped eating chicken (or any meat) that I started cooking it beyond a broiled skinless, boneless breast, and with cacciatore, coq au vin and a full-out roast under my belt, I'm edging closer to the domestic prowess my mom and grandma had before us meddling, hungry kids got in the way.  

Actually, it was due to a request from my mom and stepbrother (who normally loathes chicken) that I fired up the oven for this latest bird. I basically used the same process as my Double - Lemon Roast Chicken, but this year we weren't growing lemon balm. Instead, I used the lime basil and lemon thyme in the garden along with lots of fresh lemon zest and juice for the same zippy flavour, brought in locally raised, organic meat and took into account a year's worth of learning from cookbooks, TV shows and blogs to refine the roasting process a little (and try to improve the final result). I was nervous as my mom cut into the roasted, rested birds and took a taste - until she beamed and declared it delicious. My stepbrother, stepdad and grandma agreed: if it was even possible, the meat was more tender, the skin more crisp and the flavour more imbued than the original! 

Citrus and Herb Roast Chicken

Monday, September 16, 2013

Apple Pie Granola

So now with all that luscious, sweet and spicy Zapple Butter on my hands and apple season fast approaching (the farmer's market was loaded with bushels last week!), I couldn't wait to try out one of the recipes I had pinned eons ago from My Whole Food Life: Apple Cinnamon Granola. I had noted on my pin to use apple butter for more flavour, and since I also had some home-dried apples from last year's picking spree I decided to toss them in at the end for a bit of texture. I didn't add any nuts, fat or refined sugar to this either, which is easy to do if you're making granola at home but almost unheard of in the store-bought varieties! 

What I love about making granola at home is that I can make it über chunky - I hate buying granola where you open the bag and just find glorified toasted oats with sugar and raisins. Granola needs chunks, people! It's also a great way to play with the whole grains in the kitchen. You're not limited to oats for granola - I've used spelt flakes, brown crisp rice cereal, even cooked buckwheat, black rice and millet to make batches. I kept to mostly oats this time, but I tossed in a whack of wheat germ for flavour and a boost of nutrition (B vitamins, potassium, iron and magnesium to name a few!). To sweeten, I broke out my favourite Grade B maple syrup for a rich Fall flavour. It really did taste like apple pie, or at least apple squares - I couldn't wait for it to cool so I could dig right in!

Apple Pie Granola

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Toast Topper #30: Zapple Butter

Food bloggers can relate to the situation I found myself in this evening as I was polishing off my after-dinner "snack": You know those days when you make something out of the blue that turns out to be totally delicious... but you've eaten most of it before it ever occurs to you to take a photo? Yeah, that was me with this. Update: I made it again, so photo-less no longer!

I honestly didn't think I'd be talking about such a simple (and strange) mixture on my blog at all - really, who would care about hearing be gab about making applesauce, or fussing about the glut of zucchini still filling the fridge? I wound up combining the two topics in a sense by making this spread / thick sauce, since while grating up the fruit (it cooks down so much faster that way), I decided to chuck one of the Summer squash down the processor feed tube as well. Zucchini are blissfully bland in this respect, and just porous enough to soak up what they're surrounded with, so in a sense they just stretch the bulk of the apples without being overly vegetal. By baking the puree down (like my previous apple butters) it turns into the same caramel-brown treat, lightly scented with cinnamon and requiring no sugar or sweetening at all (though if you want to add maple syrup, stevia or something else, it's your prerogative). Whether you smear it on your toast, swirl it into muffins or add it to granola mixtures (like I did - stay tuned!), it's a delicious way to get your veggies - and your fruit - without really thinking about it!

Shared with Wellness Weekend

Zapple Butter
Update! Batch #2 with photo!

Zapple Butter
Makes about 2 1/2 cups, 10 (1/4 cup) servings
5 large apples (any variety, I used Pink Lady and Cortland), stemmed and coarsely grated (leave peels and cores)
1 large zucchini (about 350g), coarsely grated (leave peel on)
1/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Mix apples, zucchini and apple juice in a covered casserole.
  3. Cover and bake for 2 hours, until very broken down.
  4. Allow to cool slightly, then run through a food mill to remove hard pieces of core and skin.
  5. Stir in cinnamon and add puree back to the casserole dish.
  6. Re-cover and bake another hour, then remove the lid and bake a further 30-45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until dark brown and very thick.
  7. Transfer to a jar and store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks or freeze up to 6 months.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 63.6
Total Fat: 0.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 1.2 mg
Total Carbs: 16.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.0 g
Protein: 0.5 g

Friday, September 13, 2013

Radish Muffins #EatingA2ZChallenge


Radish Muffins

Yes, you heard me - I am that crazy person who puts almost anything in a baked good, and radishes are just the next thing on the list.You see, I planted a half package of seeds just to fill up a gap in my garden and feed my craving for roasted radishes with dinner (if you haven't tried them, you should!). As what often happens from year to year (especially since the growing season is so short), I forgot just how virile those little roots were, and soon I found myself with more than I could eat in a year, let alone before they went all slimy in the fridge. So I cast my mind around for an idea to use up the extras (without resorting to canning pickles, since I had already done that), and settled on the sweet catch-all of the kitchen... the quickbread.

It's not that weird, really, when you think about it. I mean, we add carrots, parsnips, beets and zucchini (and if you're me, kale) to muffins and loaves, so why not another vegetable? Radishes in the raw usually wind up getting the short end of the veggie stick, and are all too often ignored on the dip platters at potlucks. For some, they're too spicy. For others trying to use them in cooking, they're seen as not versatile enough. These muffins disprove all that! They're like carrot muffins, spiced with rich allspice and cinnamon and filled with pops of sweet raisins. The radish just adds a rich, earthy note that brings them up a notch into "special" territory.

Like the hashtag in my post title indicates, it's time for another round of the Eating the Alphabet Challenge on Meal Planning Magic! We had a three-fer to choose from this month - P, Q or R - and obviously I chose R with my radishes and raisins! By the way, did you know just 100g of radishes provide about  25% of the RDA for vitamin C, as well as lots of antioxidants, folate, vitamin B-6, riboflavin, thiamin, iron, magnesium, copper and calcium? Wowee, healthy!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Maple-Sweetened Apple Fruit Leather #DessertChallenge

Strangely enough, I hated candy as a child. Chocolate, cakes, cookies... let me at 'em. But gummi anything, jelly beans, suckers, taffy, hard drops... I'd pass. The only exceptions I'd make were for honey-filled candy made by one of my mom's co-workers (who ran an apiary as a hobby!) and mellowcremes at Halloween. The texture and one-note sweetness of most candy available back then was boring, and if I was going to blow my allowance money (this was before calorie budgets became known to my young mind), it was going to be on a creamy, rich piece of chocolate.
Apple-Maple-Cinnamon Fruit Leather
I still don't love commercial candy (artisan or homemade caramels are delicious though), but I do love fruit roll-ups. Real fruit roll-ups, though, made of dehydrated fruit puree, maybe a spice or two and a drizzle of sweetening... nothing else. This version is probably the simplest of my batches this year, needing only apples, cinnamon, maple syrup and a pinch of smoked (or regular) salt. Homemade fruit roll-ups are a delicious, easy portable snack for everyone's lunchbox, and are doubly easy if you have a dehydrator and an offset palette knife. Of course, if you don't have a dehydrator and aren't in the market (granted, mine cost me $10 on Kijiji) a low oven is a viable substitute! I've given both sets of directions below so everyone can play with Nature's candy, adding a healthy, sweet treat to your family's routine.

Lady Behind the Curtain Dessert Challenge

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Coconut Funfetti Ice Cream Cake Truffles

After tempting you all with the Coconut Funfetti Ice Cream Cake last Sunday (and mentioning I made an extra one!) I couldn't very well leave you hanging without the cake ball recipe I used! I dialed up the vanilla and ice cream flavours even more with these rich spheres of wonder too, cramming in extra melted ice cream (new tubs need to be christened, right?) and vanilla-bean flecked frosting (I used some Super Vanilla Frosting I had in the freezer but normally I'd just add the vanilla bean to a tub of Duncan Hines). A little extra coconut flour kept everything together (plus it tasted good!) and in no time I had what felt like a gazillion bite-sized goodies hanging out in my freezer.

Since I didn't need to coat all of them at once, I gave them the IQF treatment on baking sheets before transferring them to a plastic bag. For a family member's birthday, I pulled out, milk-chocolate coated, decorated and packaged 6 of them, while the rest of them became a "thank-you" package for my supervisors after my summer camp volunteer stint ended. They're a fun, frugal and more casual way to celebrate when a whole cake is a bit too much - say, after 
A Tailgating #SundaySupper?

Coconut - Funfetti Ice Cream Cake Truffles

Shared with Waste Not Want Not Wednesday on Poor and Gluten Free.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Coconut Funfetti Ice Cream Cake (A Tailgating #SundaySupper)

I'll admit - I have no idea what tailgating is. At all. It's not something we tend to do around where I live, mostly because the general population only watches hockey (and occasionally a horrible, drawn out baseball slaughter) and it's just too darn cold to hang around an icy parking lot for hours. Especially when you could be in a nice, cozy bar with a couple cold ones and a basket of fries (and a salad of course ;-D), watching the game on TV. But it seems that the art of noshing outside the stadium has been perfected by the football crowd in the US, and even if you're not into the game in question, I can see the appeal of the social aspect. I actually just found an interesting article on the history of tailgating... yes I'm a nerd.

Generally, tailgating parties are all about the beer (nothing wrong with that!) and the meat (well...), but what about dessert? I mean really, man cannot live on cow, pig and chicken alone, no matter how delicious they are. No, parties of any kind demand a celebratory cap off. And what's more fun than a Funfetti cake?

Coconut-Funfetti Ice Cream Cake

This is actually a great cake for post Labour Day, since if your family is anything like mine you never quite finished up the 3 tubs of ice cream that were all opened and partially eaten from during the Summer. If you can believe it, taking that super-soft ice cream and beating it with a handful of other ingredients creates a perfectly sweet, low-rising cake that could be frosted or simply served with (more!) ice cream and some fresh berries. 

I wish I could take credit for the idea, but I actually found it on a fellow #SundaySupper chef's (Pam of Blueberries and Blessings) page and tweaked it to make her chocolate chip/vanilla cake into a coconut funfetti concoction! I did have to modify some of the ingredients for texture, but her original was a great starting point - I actually made two of these and turned one into cake balls for a gift! Whether you serve it up outside your local Dome or cut a slice for an after-dinner treat, it's definitely a simple go-to dessert. Oh, and did I mention it's gluten free too?

This #SundaySupper is all about the tailgating experience - drinks, food and fun! Our host this week is Lane of Supper For A Steal - thanks Lane!

Get your tailgate on with all the yummy offerings below!

Warm Ups (Appetizers):

Game Time (Main Dishes and Sides):

Overtime (Drinks and Desserts):

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 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 fabulous recipes and food photos.

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

Friday, September 6, 2013

Yoghurt (& Variations)

One of my absolute favourite foods growing up was yoghurt. As long as it wasn't plain or banana, there wasn't anything that could keep me from eating two or three containers of Muppets yoghurt a day (please tell me someone else remembers Muppets yoghurt!). On days when I came with my mom to the grocery store, I begged for a container of cappuccino flavour the way some kids begged for cookies from the bakery - and given that my mom and grandma both love that flavour as much as I do, it wasn't a hard sell.

Because of my late-appearing dairy allergy, I haven't had one of my old favourite snacks in a long time. It never occurred to me to make my own yoghurt from scratch either, both because I wouldn't be able to taste it and because it seemed like something too dangerous to mess with in my own kitchen. Even though the bacteria in the tub of creamy goodness is healthy, it's still bacteria - and as such prone to overmultiplying and creating toxic waste. I figured that without a yoghurt maker to keep the cultured milk at the proper temperature, dealing with dairy product-manufacture (aside from ricotta) was best left to the pros.

Then I read The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making by Alana Chernila and found her well-worded, approachable-sounding method for making yoghurt from scratch at home. My grandmother had been lamenting the lack of our favourite cappuccino flavour from the grocery shelves, and (coupled with half a bag of milk nearing expiry) it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try my hand at it - after all, I didn't have all that much to lose if it didn't work out. I played with the amounts and additions right from the get go to come up with something closer to the rich, Balkan style I grew up with, and thanks to a few very warm days and an insulated bag inside my car, I found myself with a perfectly-sized batch of incredibly fresh, thick yoghurt with a slight tang that fit perfectly as a sour cream substitute as well as for enjoying plain (or, in my mom's case, with honey, cocoa and raspberries). A second batch quickly followed, with the signature coffee flavouring, and according to my grandma it was just as delicious - if not more so - than the snack of my childhood.

Cappuccino Yogurt

I’ve added some more some of our favourite flavour variations after the recipe too, so feel free to play!

Shared with  Gluten Free Fridays

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Candied Zucchini (Mock Candied Ginger)

We have a lot of zucchini in the garden this year. While we're cramming as much of it into our bellies as we can with stir fries, ratatouille, breads and cookies, I'm always looking for ways to prevent the vegetables/fruits from turning into fuzzy blue beings that walk themselves to the compost. After my success with several batches of Candied Watermelon Rind (all using different spice combinations!) I wondered if the same method would work with the huge, spongier zucchini we didn't pick quite in time. Being that it's a fairly cheap experiment, I gave it a shot, adding a hefty dose of ginger to the syrup.

Candied ZucchiniIt worked - while the zucchini cubes shrunk a bit more than the watermelon rind did (understandable!), they soaked up the caramel-like syrup and became almost the taste and texture of the candied stem ginger you can find in jars in some of the specialty or import shops around here. Those jars are pricey, and with a few ginger-lovers on my Christmas gift list (and more zucchini in the garden!) I can see myself making more of this in the near future - the first jar is mine!

While the recipe is cheap and easy to make, it does take time (like a day and a half minimum) - don't rush the cooking or the infusion though... you don't want to burn the batch, and it only gets better the longer it sits in the syrup!

Shared with Waste Not Want Not Wednesday

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Toast Topper #29: Hot Pepper Pomegranate Jelly

As much as I love learning about other cultures and religions, I am constantly finding myself ignorant of their customs and norms. It took a cancelled medical appointment to remind me that the first day of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) was Wednesday-Friday this year, meaning that no work would be done. Of course, after figuring that out, I couldn't wait to create something to add the trademark foods to our table at home!

I knew that apples and honey were traditional celebration foods for this significant event, but I had no idea that one of the (still-hot) superfoods was too! Apparently pomegranates are considered the “new fruit” of the year and as such are traditionally eaten on the second night of Rosh Hashanah. The fruit supposedly contains 613 seeds, correlating with the Torah's commandments, as well - so it's a symbol of devotion too!

Now, I find whole pomegranates a hassle, not to mention expensive for the end result! Luckily, kosher pomegranate juice is readily available, and this week I found it on sale too (likely due to the holiday). I had bookmarked a hot pepper and cranberry jelly recipe ages ago from Jill's Test Kitchen to use up some of our glut of chiles in the backyard and thought that using pomegranate juice would be not only delicious and just as healthy, but a nod to the occasion too. I was able to reduce the total added sugar by using no-sugar-needed pectin and a touch of stevia, and besides, the pomegranate juice is sweet on its own. With the white wine vinegar and peppers, this isn't strictly a "sweet" preserve, but it strikes a balance that to me is even better. I can only imagine the possibilities: dolloped on crackers with cream cheese (or mixed into cream cheese!), making decadent grilled cheeses, mix into turkey or chicken burgers and of course glazing things like tofu, salmon, pork chops or chicken breast!

Hot Pepper Pomegranate Jelly

Do you have any traditions or customs that ring in the New Year, whenever it falls?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Moist Lime Sour Cream Cake

It may be September, but around here it's still warm and humid! Unfortunately, our outdoor Labour Day plans were cut short by a wicked thunderstorm, but luckily we still have good food - and good people to share it with! 

I always think of citrus when planning a Summery dessert, and while lemon is lovely there is something about the tropical "pop" of lime that just works in the warm weather. Think about it: Mojitos. Salsa. Slaw. Pie. All sorts of summery things, made better with a tangy twist of lime. Why should cake be any different? 
Moist Lime Sour Cream Cake
I found my inspiration for this "pseudo pound cake" in the book Mad Hungry Cravings, which had a Greek yoghurt lemon version that smacked of moist flavour. However, I was without any Greek yoghurt ('twas the day before groceries), but I did have the bottom of a container of sour cream - and why not amp up the richness of a day-off treat for family and friends? So I used that, along with my favourite limes, spelt flour and local honey, and found myself with a winner. I added a touch of cornmeal for extra texture too, and used a shot of Grand Marnier to bump up the "cocktail-ness" of the crumb. A simple glaze (I use Alton's) made it simple enough to serve with tea mid-afternoon, but still elegant enough to pair with frozen yogurt and berries for a "company's coming" dessert! 

Moist Lime Sour Cream Cake

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Caramelized Onion Relish for A Labour Day #SundaySupper (Toast Topper #28)

Happy Labour Day! Our family at home never does much in the way of celebrating the last long weekend of the Summer, given that it's almost exclusively raining or boiling hot that weekend (this year: raining) and we don't know our neighbours so having a neighbourhood shindig is not in the cards. Half the time, someone in the family is working on the Sunday, and since everyone has to go back to work and/or school on the Tuesday you know nobody is having family driving in from all over for a BBQ dinner. This year, our household is actually making two "Sunday Supper" like meals on the weekend instead of grilling anything - tonight sees the re-appearance of  my stepbrother's favourite Double - Lemon Roast Chicken, while Monday Mom is roasting a prime rib she got for free during a crazy grocery store promotion over 6 months ago and never got around to cooking.

That said, just because my "home family" is Labour Day apathetic doesn't mean my "foodie family" is - and for this week's #SundaySupper I'm even jumping on the BBQ-friendly bandwagon. I found this sweet, savoury, chunky condiment in a copy of The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving that I borrowed from the library, and couldn't wait to give it a go - caramelized onions, as I'm sure you're aware, are worth their weight in gold on (or in) pretty much anything you can think of. This elegant "relish" (I consider it so much more than that) was originally written with just "onions", but I amped the sugar caramelization factor by using Vidalias, slowly cooked with sliced garlic, a touch of brown sugar and syrupy balsamic vinegar. Of course, I had to add some booze to the mix (like I mentioned to Sue, people are going to start wondering about me - I can't drink FWIW!), and given that both red wine and cognac pair well with beef (I'm imagining grilled striploin) and potatoes (yes, this would make killer taters), they both found their way into the pot. This was actually a perfect use for my mom and stepdad's homemade wine, which was "okay" to drink (they preferred / kept receiving other bottles) and actually improved over the slow cooking process. Come to think of it, this condiment may in fact make an appearance tomorrow night - burgers or no!

This week's Labour Day #SundaySupper is being hosted (with many thanks) by DB (aka Foodie Stuntman) of Crazy Foodie Stunts.

Here's the list of Labour Day love!

Refreshing Drinks

Amazing Appetizers and Sides

Enviously Good Entreés

Delicious Desserts

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 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 fabulous recipes and food photos.

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

Caramelized Onion Relish