Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Monster Mash Cookies

Do you remember the Monster Mash? It seemed like when I was a kid, Hallowe'en at school meant (horribly re-enacted) Thriller dance-offs and a mass Monster Mash bonanza at lunch. Now that I'm back in a school environment as a teacher, I've been re-living Hallowe'en vicariously through the students. It's hard to match the excitement of a child anticipating a special day, and when candy's involved? Batten down the hatches!

As part of the Hallowe'en festivities every year, we invite the kids and their parents to a school-thrown party the Friday before the big day. While it is technically a fundraiser, it's more an excuse to gather outside of the cloud of school and work and have some fun! Although the tickets into the party are cheap (2 for $5 I believe), our school makes a killing with the bake sale table - not only are the foods donated (the staff and some of the parents get hit up for goodies) but it's a cornucopia of treats that both adults and children can enjoy. My donation this year was twofold - one round box contained moist, whole wheat and sunflower seed apple muffins, the other (our family's signature "cookie tin") packed with a batch of goodies that I deemed Monster Mash Cookies.

The name is pretty fitting, when you think about it - these are packed with both candy coated chocolate and chocolate chips before getting a "fur coat" of sprinkles! They have a hidden touch of ricotta cheese that keeps them moist and chewy without being so soft they disintegrate, making them just as delicious two days out as the day you bake them (if you keep them in an airtight container).

Monster Mash Cookies

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Amazing Spice Cake with Candied Watermelon Rind #12WksXmasTreats

It's starting to come down to the wire... Friday heralds November, meaning the start of the official Christmas onslaught from the marketing agents, post offices and kids with mile-long lists! We have our annual Santa Claus Parade next weekend (wasn't it just time for the Hallowe'en party?) and if my memory serves it will be a cold jaunt around town! Luckily, after the hard work comes hot chocolate and goodies at school - and a healthy, warming spice cake is a great crowd pleaser. This particular one is laced with as much ginger as I could find, as well as black tea, rich molasses and ginger-infused Candied Watermelon Rind (a cheap... er, economical... substitute for candied ginger!). The rest of the cake is fairly simple, and is amped up with pretty much a bucket's worth of spices - including some you may not have thought of in a sweet application. 

Amazing Spice Cake with Candied Watermelon Rind

Like any good holiday recipe (and especially any good spice cake), this snacking cake stores perfectly well in either the fridge or freezer. Simply wrap in plastic (and again in foil if freezing) and make sure to label it! If you've been as inspired as I've been by the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats hosted at Meal Planning Magic you'll need a list of your stash soon! 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Candies for #SundaySupper

Soft Chocolate Candy (Beginning of kneading)I was on a candy-making roll after last week's Homemade Sour Patch Kids, so I decided to try another homemade version of a classic - Tootsie Rolls. However, like the sour candy, this concoction adapted from The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook is a bit more refined in flavour and texture. For one thing, I used the best bittersweet chocolate I could get a hold of - we're talking 75% cocoa - which made for divinely "grown up" tasting nibbles. A touch of brown sugar deepened the molassesy sweetness of the dark corn syrup, and those two components worked in tandem to make the resulting "rope" of candy pliable enough to cut and melt in your mouth but sturdy enough to hold its shape. In a sense, to compare these to a  Tootsie Roll is like comparing homemade chicken soup to Campbells - for all appearances they are alike, but one taste and you never go back.

Soft Chocolate Candy (Kneaded)Of course, divine candy - even something that is relatively simple like this one - has a price. For these, this means a lot of waiting, greasing, scraping, kneading and cleaning! I started off thinking that a quick swipe of oil on my hands alone would do the trick, but discovered that this candy is one that gets over everything - eventually I just got a cereal bowl, dumped some shortening into it and used it almost like soap to keep the candy in motion. Kneading felt like forever because of the sticky factor (it was really only about 15-20 minutes), and I would definitely invest in a bench scraper and a silicone mat for the greatest ease (some may call it a cop-out, I'm just too lazy to keep cleaning!). The "waiting" portion comes in the form of a "curing" stint that's at least overnight (although I didn't get to mine again until 3 days post-knead and it hadn't suffered). All this is so worth it in the end, though, (and a really good reason not to skip either kneading or curing) since it's a lot easier to cut into chunks, roll into chocolatey "snakes" and slice individual pieces when it's had a chance to chill out and rest. The rolling, cutting and wrapping is also a great activity for kids to get involved with - there are a lot of pieces and many hands make light work!

Chocolate Rope

When all's said and done, and you pop that first candy into your mouth, the reason for those efforts you put in becomes clear as day - it's a grown-up, more "gourmet" version of the Hallowe'en candy fest the kids will be diving into, and it's as free of additives and fillers as you'd like it to be (depending on the chocolate you choose!).

Soft and Chewy Chocolates

Since it is the Sunday before the biggest candy nosh of the year, you know the #SundaySupper group has to bring our Halloween game to the table! This event is being hosted by Kathia of Basic N Delicious - Thanks Kathia!





Friday, October 25, 2013

Honeydew - Ginger Simple Syrup

It never fails - whenever there's a gathering involving food, there always seems to be the quintessential fruit platter. Often, there's more than one, since several well meaning guests pick up a pre-cut tray en route to the party as a kind of hostess gift - but sadly the delicious looking produce is usually passed over in favour of the "real" dessert plates (especially at Christmas, when the cookies are plentiful and varied!). Of the next day leftovers, the first to go with my family are the berries and kiwi (Sunday morning pancake toppers), then the lunchbox-friendly grapes and stir-fry perfect pineapple. 

But nobody here is a huge fan of the melons. Whether honeydew, cantaloupe, canary or Santa Claus, they just don't rank up there in our top 10 fruit choices. Then again, my mom and I are loath to throw anything edible out (particularly higher priced items like fresh fruit), so when she had to leave on business for a week right after Thanksgiving (leaving half a gigantic honeydew, amongst other leftovers, in the fridge) I knew I had to do something to preserve it for later use. 

DSCN8778Lucky for me, my stepfamily are skilled cocktail makers, and while they usually use juice or seltzer as a mixer having a simple syrup on hand adds an extra element of variety - as well as opening up the possibilities of homemade sodas and shaved ice. True to their name, simple syrups are easy to do as well - with this one, it was a case of pureeing the fruit, lightly cooking it with water, sugar and ginger, then stirring in a touch of acid and straining it. While I kept some in an old jam jar for home use, the rest I poured into a clean wine bottle and stashed in the freezer for Christmas gifts. It's a great way to keep the holiday party going the rest of the year! 

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cream Cheese Chocolate Bombs #12WksXmasTreats

I'm a bomb maker. Yes, you read that right. A bomb maker. But don't panic - the only explosions my bombs can manage are those in the flavour department, and as far as I know they're still allowed on airplanes worldwide. 

I came across the original idea for making these cake-like cookies studded with milk chocolate and tangy cream cheese on Gluten Free Easily, and immediately knew I had to give them a try. After all, they looked like one of those things that logically shouldn't work, yet magically does! I had to modify Shirley's version slightly due to what I had on hand (and an egg allergy in my serving group), but the result was just as decadent - not to mention safe for school (nut-free), egg allergies and celiacs! 

I wanted to save some of the batch for later, so I froze some of the dough on parchment lined sheets and transferred them to a freezer bag. When I baked them up from frozen, they were identical to their "fresh" counterparts - good to know for holiday planning! If you are making these for gluten-intolerant or celiac friends, make sure you pick a gluten-free milk chocolate (don't just raid the Hallowe'en stash... unless you check with the manufacturer first! A basic starting list of GF items is here). Otherwise, go hog-wild and enjoy these pillowy, tangy puffs of delight!

12 Weeks of Christmas Treats Blog Hop | Hosted by

We're into week 5 of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats hosted at Meal Planning Magic, and things just keep getting more and more decadent! Check out all the links below and you can still sign up on the website!

Cream Cheese Chocolate Bombs

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Homemade Sour Patch Kids for a Spooky #holidayfoodparty

I never really loved candy. Chocolate, cakes and cookies? Let me at 'em. Ice cream and pudding? I'm down. But jelly beans, licorice, Gummi bears and hard candy drops? I'm okay, really.

The two notable exceptions for me were watermelon or green apple Jolly Ranchers and Sour Patch Kids. There was something about the tang that lightened them up on my palate and made them feel less sugary than they actually were (consider 40g of Sour Patch Kids have 26 grams of sugar!). In fact, when I went Trick or Treating, they were the only things "candy" that I saved (and traded for with my candy-hating sister).

But, like I said, there is a lot of sugar and not much else in those sour treats - the first three ingredients are "sugar, invert sugar and corn syrup". Let's be clear - there is a decently large amount of sugar in my gummies, too. But there is also real fruit juice and a delicious exotic flavour - and if you're so inclined you could even spring for raw sugar to make this too. I didn't want to take away the fun and "naughtiness" of eating candy, but I did want to see if I could sneak in a little nutritional oomph and a more unique flavour as well (since I was on a pomegranate kick at the time). I found the recipe for my base in Classic Snacks Made from Scratch, and since the only pomegranate juice my store carried was in 473 ml (16 oz) bottles, I scaled it up by a ton so I wouldn't have leftover juice taking up space in my fridge. Because I loved super-sour candy, I added an extra helping of citric acid and nixed the powdered sugar/cornstarch coating after my first few candies started weeping and turning the mixture into glue.

I made these over the Summer, and if your house tends to run hot (even in the Winter when the furnace kicks on), keeping these on the counter to dry or store won't end well (trust me). Same if your climate (in or out) is humid. Just let them hang out in the fridge on a loosely-covered platter. Don't worry - they won't be waiting long there before being devoured!

This recipe is part of our Halloween #holidayfoodparty started by Jen of Jen's Favorite Cookies. We have a spooky 13 entries this time and all of them look delightful!
  1. Butterfinger Bark from Jen's Favorite Cookies
  2. Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cut-Out Cookies from Created by Diane
  3. Chocolate Crepes with Pumpkin Butter Filling and Spiced Maple Pecan Syrup from Pineapple and Coconut
  4. Vampire Delight Martini from Magnolia Days
  5. Pumpkin Spice Kiss Cookie Cups from Chocolate Moosey
  6. Rice Krispie Candy Corn from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
  7. Chocolate Peanut Butter Halloween Puppy Chow from Messy Baker
  8. Homemade Sour Patch Kids from What Smells So Good
  9. Reese's PB&C Pretzel Crust Pie from Hungry Couple NYC
  10. Chocolate Pumpkin Layer Cake from Gotta Get Baked
  11. Pumpkin Rice Krispie Treats from Girl in the Little Red Kitchen
  12. Pumpkin Cheesecake Swirl Brownies from Crumb Blog
  13. Pumpkin Pie Fudge from Juanita's Cocina

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Toast Topper #33: Tomato Kasundi #SundaySupper

One of the love/hate relationships we (and I'm sure many other gardeners) have is with our tomato plants. While this year's crop are long gone now (and boy are we missing their sweet flavour compared to the mealy, cardboardy supermarket ones currently available), in the middle of the season there were a few points where we were forced to either dry them, can them, freeze them or lose them to the ravages of mould and fruit flies.

As much as I love my various versions of tomato sauce, one thing is always constant - my stepfamily (and thus, my household) won't eat them. While they are Italian (my stepdad was born and raised there) it's not as if they're super gourmands or anything snooty like that. In fact, they would rather have a processed sauce out of a can that tastes of nothing but salt than a bona fide long-simmered, multi-dimensional ragu. Sigh. Well to each their own!

After realizing I would never win them over to the Italian sauce side (although recently my stepbrother made tomato sauce which is now "the sauce" for the family *rolls eyes*), I gave up and started to branch out into other cuisine inspirations for my harvest. Like last year, tomato confit took out a decent chunk of our extra fruit (and is now securely packed in the freezer for soup), as did basic roasted cherry tomatoes. But in the interest of trying something new, I also whipped up a batch chutney along with something I had never heard of before - tomato kasundi.

Tomato Kasundi

If, like me, you're looking at the title of this recipe going "what the heck is kasundi?", I'll break it down a bit for you. In it's most basic concept, kasundi is a rich, thick and decadently spiced tomato relish of sorts hailing from India. Filled with ginger, garlic, chile peppers and vinegar, it's tart and spicy, with just a hint of sweetness from brown sugar and molasses to balance everything out. It's beautiful looking when it's done, and even better smelling while it cooks - but would you know what to do with it? If you're like my mom (thank God she still likes what I cook!), you stir it into scrambled eggs, mix it into leftover rice while reheating, top leftover turkey sandwiches, or use as a killer sauce on grilled steak or roasted meats. It's delicious hot or cold, and while we haven't done it yet (we missed grilling season), I bet it would take the place of ketchup on my mom's fantastic burgers (or on meatloaf! Now that's an idea!).

It's a saucy week for #SundaySupper, and from sweet to sour and everything in between there's sure to be something you can sink your spoon into! DB is our gracious host this week - thanks DB!

Savory Sauces

Pasta Sauces and Pastas with Sauce

Entreés with Sauces

Sweet Sauces

Desserts with Sauces

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.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Gluten Free Maple Pecan Bread for #WBD

Even though I've been participating in Zorra's awesome event for years (along with hundreds of other bloggers!), I never knew until this year - my seventh - what the true message behind this gathering of yeasted goodness was! The idea of World Bread Day, according to our founder, is to be able to appreciate and honour the fact that we have sufficient nutritious food every day. Not all of us are this lucky, and not all of us really realize how much we really can live without and still survive day to day. So let's make today the start of everyday appreciation for the little things - it's not just at Thanksgiving and Christmas that we have to think about what we're grateful for!

This year for World Bread Day (follow #WBD / on Twitter and like the Facebook page!) I wanted to make something that really could include all bread lovers - even those who have dietary restrictions like egg and dairy allergies or celiac. I found a gluten- soy- and gum-free, vegan recipe on Nourishing Meals that looked perfect to start with and gave it a little seasonal twist with rich pecans, cranberries, maple syrup and coconut milk. With my changes, the dough was too sticky to shape into the lovely rustic-looking boule that Ali made, so I greased my trusty GF-only loaf pan and bunged it into that. The result was a loaf that was moist and dense like a hearty country-style pumpernickel, but not heavy and brick-like as many storebought gluten free breads are. My mom has been enjoying it all week (it both freezes and toasts well!), and I never told her it was gluten free (I honestly forgot). At any rate, she gave it two thumbs (and a foot) up!

Maple Pecan Bread

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Rich Tea Cake #12WksXmasTreats

I've been dragging my heels a bit today with all the stuff I have going on at co-op (I devised a new material that is - surprise - food related and it's keeping me busy!) so I'll have to keep this short. In fact, the amount of time it takes to whip this dense, fruit and nut fruitcake after the fruit is soaked (which you can even do the night before), is roughly the amount of time I have to sit at my computer today - 30 minutes.

However, I promise you that this loaf will last a lot longer in the freezer than it takes to make... that is, if it makes it to the freezer! I know there's a lot of stigma around the Christmas fruitcake (and gosh knows I've made my share - including a 5 pound monster!), but this one is way less door-stoppy, stodgy and sickly sweet than most of them and there isn't a single candied peel in sight. Even my typically fruitcake-adverse mom tucked into a piece of this with a cup of tea and declared it yummy, with delicate hints of spice from the Earl Grey piggybacking on the stronger cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and nutmeg, crunch from a slew of walnuts, almonds and seeds, and a rich natural sweetness from maple syrup and the dried fruit.

I would never suggest cloaking this in marzipan like a standard fruitcake, either - not only is it far too sweet and domineering a flavour in general (even at the best of times), it's heavy. One of the secrets behind this loaf is while it is dense with stuff, the batter itself is incredibly tender because of the spelt flour and tenderizing orange juice. Marzipan on top? Say hello to a pile of crumbs and nuts all over your countertop!

The original recipe was found in one of my recent favourite baking books - The Vegan Baker - and I only slightly modified it to use what I had on hand (and I urge you to do the same!). With no refined flour or sugar, no eggs and no dairy, but all the taste of the season, it's one holiday gift you won't have returned to the store!

We're 4 months into the  12 Weeks of Christmas Treats hosted at Meal Planning Magic already! Is your freezer starting to fill up? Mine is!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Strawberry Balsamic Shellac (#EatA2ZRecipeChallenge)

Have you ever been "stuck" trying to figure out a way to jazz up yet another meal of leftover Thanksgiving (or Christmas) turkey? Since our (Canadian) Thanksgiving was this past weekend (and my mom is off on a business trip), we have a lot of leftovers to contend with (in a household which is currently filled with leftover-haters!), and there are only so many leftover turkey sandwiches
you can eat before they lose their allure (yes, even my favourite gravy-soaked trencher-style open faced one gets a bit old after a while). Then there's the ever-present question of veggies - as delicious as my lemon honey roasted carrots and Famous People's Carrots are, it's always nice to change them up a bit to keep them interesting!

Luckily, it's usually the simplest changes that make the biggest impact on a dish, and by whipping up a new sauce or glaze you can transform a basic ingredient. Strawberries and balsamic vinegar have been a hot pairing for a while, and a lot of the time it seems like something too fancy for a weeknight. I'll admit, I'm not going to whip this drizzly sauce (or "shellac" if you use it as a yummy baste!) at 6:30 on a Wednesday, but by making a jar of it on the weekend you have so many possibilities open to you for two or three weeks at a time! I found the original inspiration in my (well-loved) copy of  Put 'em Up! Fruit by Sherri Brooks Vinton, and since making it once we've been finding all sorts of things to use it for - a "grown-up" ice cream sauce, a mix in for vanilla yoghurt, a brush-on glaze for chicken breasts, roasting root vegetables and salmon, even a condiment for leftover meat and rice! Even now, a small jar is on our fridge shelf for last minute ideas.

Strawberry Balsamic Shellac

Keeping in mind the upcoming holidays, I made and canned a few extra jars over the summer when our local strawberries were at their peak (and cheap!) to tuck into my gift baskets. Since I have a few "household gourmets" on my list, I can't wait for the wide eyes on Christmas morning!

With all the strawberry goodness that goes into this sauce, it's my contribution to the Eating the Alphabet Recipe Challenge at Meal Planning Magic. We're up to S & T already, can you believe it?

Après Holiday Soup

When it comes to the holidays, my family never does anything halfway. Why only host one festive feast in December, when you can have three (Italian-style Christmas Eve, Christmas morning brunch and my stepdad's birthday bash), and why not triple stack Canadian Thanksgiving with two turkey dinners and a huge family birthday? Since our parents are divorced, my sister and I also have the situation of multiple families to feast with. While neither of us eat the traditional accoutrements of holiday dinners (she might have a bit of turkey with her buttered spaghetti), that doesn't mean we don't get sent home with leftovers. Thankfully, holiday leftovers are generally versatile, and between curries, casseroles, stir-fries and soups like this one we manage to finish one holiday's glut before the next one rolls in! 

The first thing I always do with my holiday remnants is turkey stock. This on its own is reason enough to host a dinner, since with the bones and maybe an onion and some carrots you have a rich, flavourful base for sauces, gravies, soup and rice dishes that needs almost no attention (especially if you make it in a crock-pot). Then, I take stock of what veggies were leftover from the side dish prep, pick a starch that is ideally not plain white potatoes (since while they are good, after 3 days of them you start to get tired of mashed, roasted, boiled... tubers). 

Apres Holiday Soup

Usually the "re-purposing" meal I default to is soup, since it's a great catch all for ingredients (both leftovers and those "bottom of the box" pantry staples you may or may not have forgotten about). When I set about making this year's first turkey concoction, I was able to toss in the last of a bag of adzuki beans, a lone sweet potato, chopped-but-never-used leeks, carrots and celery from stuffing, and the last of our green beans and peas along with the chopped meat. I was lucky enough to snap up some delicious Ontario garlic at the market too, so a head of roasted cloves found their way into the pot along with most of the herb garden. This would have been well and good enough on its own, but to bump up the heartiness and stretch the goodness further, I chucked in some multigrain pasta at the very end. It's hard to resist a soup with so much going on - even if it's all leftovers from the week before!

What's your favourite thing to do with holiday leftovers?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Zucchini Fudge Cashew Cake

Is there anything better than a rich, moist, tender chocolate cake waiting for you when you come home from school or work? I grew up in the era of Deep 'n Delicious cakes, which we were never allowed to have at home, but when I went to a friend's house it always seemed to be waiting for us in the freezer. There was something about being able to just dig right in to a piece of cake at the end of an ordinary day that made the experience perfect - and I've been a fan of the "snacking cake" ever since.

These days, the snack cakes of my youth are fewer and farther between on the grocery shelves, being replaced by gigantor muffins, pizza pockets and snack wraps. However, when I bring a homemade, no-frosting-needed, single layer treat to a gathering, it always winds up going first. 

I originally set out to make the Zucchini Fudge Cake Brownies that I saw on Eat Healthy, since I had a few scoops of Zapple Butter to use up before we went apple picking this morning. Somewhere along the line, I got it into my head that it would make a killer gluten free brownie that I could lace with the bottom of my jar of cashew butter and stud with roasted cashews too for good measure. I knew, even with the guar gum in my recipe, that they would be tender and rich, but they came out of the oven looking and acting way more like a cake than a pan of brownies. That said, it was one of the most spectacular surprise outcomes I've had recently, and was  lapped up by everyone who tried it - vegans, omnivores, gluten free or not! Sneaking in a hefty dose of zucchini was easy as pie, and you'd never guess it was in there! Considering that the only oil came from the cashew butter, it was surprisingly moist and tender for days and would have been perfect for a weeknight treat or a mid-afternoon snack.

GF Vegan Zucchini Fudge Cashew Cake

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Gluten Free Cranberry - Citrus Muffins (#12WksXmasTreats)

Gluten Free Cranberry - Citrus MuffinsMaking muffins ahead of time for the holiday rush is a great way to make sure you're fueling yourself properly amidst the craziness. If you're like my extended stepfamily, the Winter mornings begin at 4AM with a dash off to hockey practice, or like me and my mom you're jetting off to work while it's still dark out, running errands on the way home and still finding time to cook dinner, clean the house and do the laundry (never mind the multitasking on the holiday party nights!). Trips to the mall take on a whole new life too - you think just parking, finding, paying for and leaving with a gift would be a breeze, but something changes inside people at the shopping centres and that one-hour jaunt turns into a half a day!

At any rate, having a go-to snack stashed in the freezer can be a boon for your health and wallet... especially if you have food allergies, which mean a lot of the handy "mall food" is off-limits. These festive, seasonal muffins are not only gluten free, but they are nut, soy and egg free as well! Greek yoghurt, orange juice and coconut oil help keep these moist and rich tasting even after a few weeks in the freezer (wrap each individually in cling wrap and place in a zip-top freezer bag for best storage), so all you have to do is pop one in your lunchbox, hockey bag or purse before racing off - by the time you get the mid-morning (or afternoon!) munchies, they'll be thawed out and ready to chow on.

We're into week three of our 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats hosted at Meal Planning Magic, and I can't wait to see what everyone else has to share too!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Zucchini Banana Bread

Bananas and zucchini. Two things that never seem to get quite used up by the time they're past their prime. I think it's because, at least during the Summer, we are so inundated with stellar looking and tasting local produce that we simply can't eat it all, and even though we see the gorgeous berries, peaches and apricots in the fridge we still buy a hand of bananas for our morning cereal.

It never occurred to me to combine the two most-often wasted goods in my house into a single, moist quickbread, until I spotted Trish's recipe on her blog Mom on Time Out. I jumped at the opportunity to make it (since we had an abundance of the main ingredients at home), and since I knew I'd be passing it along to my grandmother (who loves to take care of everyone except, unfortunately, herself [at least nutrition-wise]) I bumped up the protein, fibre and Omega fats while lowering the sugar with a spoonful of Truvia.

Banana - Zucchini Bread

The loaf came out of the oven smelling like every other banana bread I've made (a really good thing if serving picky eaters!), with a hint of chocolate and nuttiness from the chips and walnuts I folded in. The top was nice and caramelized even without a raw sugar sprinkle, and thanks to the "Italian" (aka cucuzza) zucchini I used, you couldn't even see a hint of vegetable when it was sliced. Paired with your morning coffee and the newspaper on a weekend morning, a mug of tea and a good movie on TV in the afternoon, or a scoop of frozen yoghurt for a weeknight dessert, it's a winner any time of day!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Chicken Tortilla Soup (a one-pot #SundaySupper)

I love the Fall... colour wise. It's hard to argue that it's anything but the prettiest of the seasons, and depending on your location it's one of the most versatile for clothing, activities and cooking as well. This year so far we've been lucky to have more warm days than dreary, cold and rainy ones, but this past week I think Mother Nature is trying to play a bit of catch-up!

That said, Fall is the perfect time of year to get back into the groove of soups, stews and one-pot meals. They tend to be heartier, brothier and more "comfort-foodish" than their fresh and light Summer cousins, and they're less fussy than many composed salads or fresh-dependent fare like gazpacho. When I set about making this soup for my mom (who was a fan of a similar dish at a local restaurant), I wanted to incorporate the earthy "grounding" tastes and colours of Autumn as well as play homage to a Summer that had treated us well, garden-wise. Over the last few weeks of our tomato season, I began to roast almost every harvest of currant or cherry tomatoes I brought in, scraping them into a plastic zip-top bag for use in later soups and sauces. I brought out one of my bags for this potage, along with a harvest of late-season bell peppers which added a nice freshness. The rest of the pot filled up with carrots, kidney beans, leftover Citrus and Herb Roast Chicken and the broth I made from its carcass. A dash of cornmeal added texture and body, while a mix of chile powders added a rounded spiciness. After a relatively short simmer, the soup was spicy but not too too hot, thick but spoonable, and a prime candidate for lunch!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This week for #SundaySupper, Amy is hosting a roundup of one pot wonders. From soup to spaghetti and even desserts, there's no reason for us to dirty another dish tonight!

“Take the Chill Off” Chilis, Soups, and Starters

“Put Meat on Your Bones” Stews

“Make Room for Seconds” Main Dishes

“Can’t Say No” Desserts

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 ET. 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, October 5, 2013

Gluten Free Playdough

Today I have my first of many teaching exams,which is comprised of creating an activity and "teaching" it to one of my instructors. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Montessori method, the learning is experienced through the use of "materials" (like sandpaper letters or the infamous Pink Tower) across a variety of subject areas (such as Practical Life, which this exam was for). I came up with something that was only natural for me as a bakeaholic - rolling out and cutting "cookie dough"! Of course, the "dough" had to be reusable, long lasting and safe for kids, so I broke out my inner child and made my own playdough.

GF PlaydoughWe were a homemade playdough family growing up. My sister and I would beg my mom to break out the saucepan and cream of tartar at least once a month so we could have a fresh batch in a new colour to play with. My favourite part was handling the barely cooled dough - for some reason I had (and still have) a super-high tolerance for heat. Good training for falling in love with cooking, I guess! I definitely wanted to make my own playdough for this exam - partially because it is a lot cheaper to make your own and so that I could have a version that was wheat free and so wouldn't irritate my skin when I was handling it. Commercial Play-Doh is made with standard wheat flour, and while you can find Gluten Free Playdough on Amazon, it's not exactly an easy to get, inexpensive plaything.
Red and Blue
I scouted around for a recipe that used what I had on hand (with the exception of Cream of Tartar, which I knew I'd have to get) and found what looked like a winner on Celiac Family. It's almost on a par with my mom's recipe in terms of ease and convenience - I mean, what grocery store doesn't have cornstarch, and most even have rice flour these days. What I did find as I was making the mixture was that it needed a lot more cornstarch to come together, but luckily it's easily fixed (and when I added a bit too much on that end, a drizzle of water made a perfect "dough"). I would suggest making it at least a few hours before really "playing" with it, since while it's sticky in a warm state after being wrapped and left to sit a little bit the liquid distributes more evenly and it's more user friendly.


Now, I'm sure you are way smarter than I was and realize that if you want tinted dough (I highly recommend using a paste or gel colouring so you don't liquefy your dough), you will need to knead it in while wearing gloves. Well, unless you don't mind looking like the Purple People Eater (I did red and blue) or worse, like you have gangrene all over your hands and nails!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

“More Than Ginger” Spice Cookies #12WksXmasTreats

Ah, the countdown to the holidays continues, and I don't know about you, but my freezer (and canning shelf) is starting to get mighty full with all the goodies "in process" for gifting! Of course, one of my go-to themes when it comes to my cookie baking is ginger, since with one of my old elementary teacher's fondness for the stuff I always make a batch just for her! Almost all cookies are a dream to make ahead of time, since the dough freezes and thaws easily (well-wrapped, of course), and it's been my experience that the resulting cookies are usually better after a stint in the icebox - especially whole grain or oatmeal ones.

So, for this week of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats hosted at Meal Planning Magic I'm sharing a cookie that is both ginger-packed and freezer-friendly. I actually made these last year for a "visiting" gift, but they were so well received I just might have to make it (or a variation of it) again! They have a chewy, lightly textured crumb, with raisins, oats and candied ginger. But while ginger is definitely one of the forerunners in flavour, there is a lot more going on than one spice! Black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and two types of pepper (black and white) play a part in making these cookies something special - but you don't need to save enjoying them for a special occasion (just make a double batch :-) )!

“More Than Ginger” Spice Cookies

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Spicy Flax Zucchini Bread

This week heralds the end of our major backyard harvest season. It's sad to see the end of the sweet, perfect heirloom tomatoes, the hot and sweet peppers, and of course all my gorgeous herbs. However, the cooler weather does mean the end of one thing I'm glad to see go - zucchini. I'll probably be ruing it's absence a month from now, but at the moment I have had so many zucchini based dinners that I am sated. Since even the three of us veggie-lovers at home couldn't mow through the fruit of both the "standard" and "Italian" (aka cucuzza) zucchini plants (we had 4 of each), I got the leftovers to play with in the sweet kitchen.

Oh and play I did! Aside from the Zapple Butter, I did at least 4 bakes with the stuff - the first of which being this (relatively simple) quickbread. I found the base recipe on, and with some tweaking I had a meltingly moist, just-sweet-enough batter baking away, filling the kitchen with the scents of warm spices, orange and just a whiff of coconut. The texture from the whole grains and flax kept it interesting and hearty without being leaden, and the leaf stayed tender and soft for days - no butter needed! My mom and grandma shared a few slices with a smear of apple butter (which they mixed with peanut butter... man that looked good) and raved about the perfect mix of sweet and spice. Hey, if my two baking mentors want to praise my novice attempts, I'm not going to say no!

Spicy Flax Zucchini Bread