Sunday, July 27, 2014

PB & J Granola

Peanut butter and jelly is definitely a timeless classic. Whether you go the Skippy and Smucker's on Wonder Bread route or favour homemade spreads and loaves, it's a quintessential comfort food for not only children but their parents too. I used to eat PB&J for breakfast or as a snack, slathering on the creamy peanut butter and tart cherry jam before folding the pieces in half for a double-thick treat, and my family still defaults to the combination when we're pressed for time, ingredients and inspiration.

Today, our sandwiches are really a combination of storebought peanut butter and homemade jams and bread, and this granola that I adapted from the blog Peanut Butter Fingers is no different in combining its elements. With a fabulous crunchy peanut butter sweetened with honey and a generous spoonful of homemade jam, the whole shebang toasts to perfection - no extra oil necessary! While it's easily doubled or tripled, I made a small batch of this because, knowing me, the 1/4 cup serving size would soon turn into a 1 cup portion! As it is, the addictive mixture is not only a unique twist on breakfast, but is a fantastic topper for ice cream, a base for yogurt parfaits, a delightful crunchy topping for baked apples and even the secret ingredient in our "new" versions of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches*!

PB & J Granola

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Higher Protein Pizza Dough

Pizza. It's one of those foods that is so universal today that it's hard to find a variant that hasn't been capitalized on (or bastardized, depending on your source) in some way, shape or form. Like most people (and all "good" Italians / pseudo-Italians), my family loves their slices, and when we first became a household Friday nights were marked by a delivery guy with 3 boxes in his hands. The small cheese would fall to my sister, who likes nothing else on her pie. One large sucker would go strictly to my stepbrother, who would consume most of it that night (covered in pepper flakes and jalapeno rings) and save the rest for breakfast. Then there was the middle pizza, a marriage of the meat and cheese my stepdad insisted on placing on every pie, and my mom's cravings for something healthier (and vegetable related). Never the same twice (in a row, anyway), I remember mushrooms, assorted peppers, sausage, chicken, feta, olives, tomatoes, bacon and even porchetta finding a home on top of the thin crust mom insists on.

Higher Protein Pizza Dough

While my stepdad sure loves pizza, he's also a Type II diabetic with a chronic problem managing his blood sugar (even when my mom is playing watchdog so he can't cheat). As the disease has progressed with his age and stress levels at work (he now needs insulin), the carb load is even more of an issue, and bumping up the protein and fibre in his relatively white, refined-food diet has been something my mom's been trying to accomplish. While restaurant pizza isn't eliminated entirely, we knew that a homemade version would be more customizable in terms of both taste and nutrition, not to mention be a fun way of breaking in my new baby.

For serious low-carbers (like those on Atkins, etc), this is obviously not a "plan-friendly" recipe. I cannot in any way call it truly "low carb" at all - but it is higher in protein and fibre than your run of the mill storebought dough and certainly less preservative-laden than anything you could buy. Not only that, but it has a fantastic flavour profile - just tangy and yeasty enough with a subtle earthiness from the whole wheat and a sweet note from the honey. Making a big batch of this on the weekend is super simple too (even without a professional mixer), and worth it - portions freeze, thaw, par-bake or fully bake beautifully, and now we regularly have at least one ball suited for a 9x13" "thin crust" 'za sitting in the deep freezer for a Friday night splurge. Now if only I can convince my stepdad to try his pizza with ricotta cheese and spinach!

Higher Protein Pizza Dough

Shared with YeastSpotting at Wild Yeast 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sweet and Spicy Noodle Toss (A Spirited #RecipeRedux)

Since my mom is the sole cook for the majority of the family (I'm the exception, since my own meals necessarily have to be separate), she's occasionally hard pressed to think of ways to jazz up the nighttime meal for her palate while catering to the whims of my picky selective stepfamily. Even though she's retired, she's often pressed for time too - not only does she volunteer during the school year (with spot fill-ins during the Summer), but she golfs, gardens, takes care of the dog and sees to the individual needs and wants of my sister and I. My stepfamily works during the week, sometimes with late hours or unpredictable schedules, which can mean we're 4 for dinner or 2, unless my soon-to-be stepsister-in-law or grandma (or both) is over.

One of the "happy mediums" the family has managed to achieve regarding dinner routine is the stir-fry. Obviously, it's a quick method, but it's also incredibly versatile and over the Summer months is a fabulous use for the squash, carrots, onions, beans, peas and tomatoes growing in the garden. Thanks to the incredibly kind gifts that the folks at San-J sent to me last Christmas as well as a few months ago, we've been spoiled for choice flavour wise. My personal favourites are the Mongolian and Sweet & Tangy varieties, while my mom favours the spicy Thai Peanut and Szechuan sauces, especially when mixed up with a pinch of brown sugar or a dash of honey. One rare night I was given the task of helping create dinner for the family and soon took over, combining sweet, spicy and savoury in a veggie-laden, gluten free medley of fresh produce, brown rice vermicelli and crumbled "soy burger" (don't tell the stepfamily!). For kicks, I punched up the saute with Szechuan peppercorns, Chinese five spice, ginger and garlic - you can't go wrong with that combo! The merest splash of sherry helped deglaze the pan along the way, making sure all the decadent flavour stayed with the noodles and veggies and not sent to the sink.

Sweet and Spicy Noodle Bowl

This month's #RecipeRedux is featuring spirits of all kinds - be they liquor, wine, beer or extracts. Be sure to check out the rest of the gang's offerings and say hi! We'll bring the booze!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Chocolate Chip Lentil Cookies

Some days I wonder if people think my whole family eats nothing but cookies and other desserts all day. Granted, we do indulge in one or two "treats" a day (in modest portions!), but in general most of the baked sweets make their way to the staff at assorted doctor's appointments, the library, the hair salon or school. Usually, I also try to give a little something to the folks at our local greenhouse every year, since without them I'd be mighty short of dinners (and blog posts!) each year. So far, pretty much everything I've distributed has been met with approval (I even wound up on TV once!) - and these cookies are no exception. They passed the taste test with not only my mother (who is infamous for liking pretty much everything but okra and bleu cheese), but the staff at school and young kids!

Chocolate Chip Lentil Cookies

I shouldn't be surprised. These cookies are a combination of three of my favourite things: chocolate, lentils, and Chef Michael Smith. Okay, so there's no Chef in the cookies, but they are essentially his recipe - he definitely spearheaded the whole lentil PR campaign and it's associated contest! I've yet to be disappointed by a recipe of his, so when I saw these they piqued my interest immediately and I couldn't wait to make them. I made a handful of changes (namely adding whole grains and veganizing the formula with shortening, coconut oil and my Homemade Egg Replacer), and opted for both "regular" and "miniature" bittersweet chocolate chips for extra texture (plus it "feels" like more chocolate!). Obviously, if you only have one kind, just use it! I opted to leave my lentils just ever-so-slightly shy of pureed smooth, but again, if you have texture-phobes in the family (I do!), smooth is the way to go here. You'll never have to tell what that elusive "nutty" aspect is!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Two Tomato Chutney for a Summery #SundaySupper

Nothing screams Summer to me more than the first, vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes from our backyard garden. There's something divinely sweet about their juicy, sun-warmed flesh that is unlike anything you can buy, and that candy-like intensity is even greater after roasting in the oven, dehydrating or even the briefest exposure to heat via a hot saute pan or fresh from the pot pasta. During the season, I try to eat the bulk of our garden's bounty fresh (can you really pass up freshly sliced, perfect tomatoes on garlic toast?), but with upwards of 12 plants at the moment all producing fruit in bulk, not even my dehydrator can keep up with the volume regularly.

To cope with the remaining produce each year, I turn to preserving. Not simply tomato sauce and roasted tomatoes (as delicious as those are), but variations on popular condiments like ketchup and chutneys like this. Over the years, I've become known for my various chutney configurations, from watermelon rind, rhubarb and Moroccan-inspired to tart green tomato and apple mixtures. It's ironic to me, since I have never been a fan of the topping in any form - mostly due to the fact that it generally contains vegetables and fruit together, which I can't get my palate to accept. My family, on the other hand, adores the stuff, and my mom in particular will hoard a jar to herself just for use in  lunches and solo dinners.

When BBQ season lights up the backyard grill (and depending on who's manning it, the backyard in general via a lighter fluid-fed fireball) a jar or two will emerge from the fridge along with the pickled hot peppers, ketchup, mustard, relish and salsa, waiting to be chosen as a complement to my stepbrother's hamburgers or the ever-so-slightly charred steak. Meals of leftovers, often repurposed into stir-fries with extra veggies and sticky rice or brown rice vermicelli, get lashings of the sweet and spicy mixture at the table in lieu of hot or soy sauces, and even mid-Winter a freshly opened jar hearkens memories of garden plots past when its contents are dolloped onto roasted vegetables and grilled chicken.

Two - Tomato Chutney

In this particular medley, I combined both fresh and homemade dried tomatoes with sharp onions, garlic and ginger, spicy curry and pepper flakes and sweet dried fruit and honey. Cooked down into a thick, luscious mixture and allowed to "mature" for a few days (either canned or in the fridge), the family deemed it perfect for year round eats, especially afternoon BBQs with the family where everything from burgers to pizza, fish, vegetables and even tofu are fair game! 

This #SundaySupper Jennie of The Messy Baker and Melanie of Melanie Makes are hosting a Summer BBQ Party. Check out all the great seasonal eats below and stop by the Twitter party tonight at 7PM!



Sides and Accompaniments

Main Dishes

Sunday Supper Movement 
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. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

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

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Banana Walnut Cake

Looking at the countertops and grocery carts of most families these days, I'm amazed that bananas aren't an endangered species. Considering that over 100 billion of the berries (yes, they're berries) are eaten annually (27 pounds per person in the US alone), I'm sure there are some pretty grumpy monkeys out there somewhere fighting for the last bunch on the tree. My family buys bananas at least once a week year round, but over the summer containers of local berries, peaches, nectarines and other seasonal fruit start piling up as well (mostly from Costco, since my stepdad practically lives there). Given that there is no way the 3-5 of us (depending on whether my sister and stepbrother are home at the time) can mow through everything before it goes south, a lot of it ends up in either the freezer or the compost bin.

Banana Walnut Cake

As much as I love my plants, I prefer to save the fruit we buy for our consumption - bananas and berries in particular freeze beautifully, and I often open up the freezer door to find a surprising quantity of either, or both! Luckily, my family adores fruit in any form (except smoothies - we're just not big on those), so finding uses for the excess is never an issue! Most recently, I was going through my copy of Amy Green's Simply Sugar & Gluten Free when I came across her recipe for a Banana Walnut Cake. Like everything else in the book, it was dairy, refined sugar and gluten free - but it contained eggs, which I don't tend to keep on hand due to my allergy. I did have a decent amount of egg replacements open to me in the pantry (flax, chia, tofu and starches), but in the end I decided on my Homemade Egg Replacer and it worked perfectly fine.

The original recipe doesn't use a gum-based binder either, which likely factored into the cake's supremely tender nature (it sank slightly in the middle despite baking through, and was meltingly soft on the tongue). For extra structure, though, I tossed in a few spoonfuls of psyllium husk, something I've been doing with most gluten free or low-gluten recipes with great results. The soft texture of the cake is to die for on its own, but I loved the occasional crunchy bites of walnut peppering the crumb - next time I'd capitalize on the light flavour of the almond milk with slivered almonds (and a shot of Amaretto).

This is definitely unlike any banana bread I've had before, and now I can't wait for another excuse to raid my freezer!

Banana Walnut Cake

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays (#100!) and  Waste Not Want Not Wednesday 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Merry Berry Cookies

I think cookies are one of the most perfect desserts out there. Not only are they perfectly portioned, portable and quick to make, but they're infinitely variable too. It's hard to find a type of cookie that can't be modified in some way, be it for dietary restrictions, using what's on hand, boosting nutrition or simply personal taste. Cookies have a relatively seasonless quality to them as well - I mean, how can you pass up a chocolate chipper, whether it's -30°C or blazing hot and humid outside?

Obviously, some flavours are more suited to say, July than December. I think of the "spice" cookie family (i.e. gingersnaps, speculaas) fitting into the menu once the temperature drops, but they're not what I consider "summer" fare. Fruity versions, though, especially those with a slight acid note like lemons, limes and berries, are perfectly at home on the picnic table or cookout dessert tray. Take these cookies for example. When I found the original recipe in Joanne Fluke’s Lake Eden Cookbook, it looked like the perfect treat for summer camp - packed with mixed berry jam, the fruit lightens up the richness of the butter and ironically cuts the saccharine nature of the sanding sugar topping. I took some licenses with the mixture - cookies are aching for variations, after all - swapping in silken tofu for the eggs, using a canola oil and butter mixture, and tossing in cardamom, oats and oat flour for flavour and texture. The coarse sugar called for was so boring, so I used coloured sanding sugar for a pretty dazzle too.

Merry Berry Cookies

The resulting cookies are soft, tender and ever so slightly cakey, but travel well and are packed with flavour. Eight dozen cookies is a ton to bake (and eat) all at once, obviously, so unless you have a small army of cookie monsters to feed I would strongly suggest freezing batches of dough (I divided mine into 4 lots). Baked cookies make awesome sandwich "bread" for a smear of peanut butter too, if you need something other than simple, berry goodness!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Carrot Cupcakes (GF, Refined Sugar Free, Dairy Free)

If I could only eat one type of cake for the rest of my life, it would definitely be a toss up between a decadent chocolate fudge cake or a moist, nut-free carrot cake. While rich peanut butter filling in the chocolate cake would be definitely tops on my list, either one of them would get automatic bonus for cream cheese frosting. Obviously, cream cheese is a normal inclusion in carrot cake frosting, but the cake itself seems to have as many variations as there are carrot-cake lovers. Pineapple, no pineapple, nut free or thoroughly studded, raisins, craisins, dates or plain-jane are just some of the common twists I've seen, and gosh only knows I've plied some weird and wonderful combinations in the kitchen myself.

That said, I've never seen a recipe for carrot cake quite like the recipe in Amy Green's book Simply Sugar & Gluten Free. That recipe calls for an absolutely miniscule amount of flour for the amount of carrots and nuts, not to mention the liquid ingredients like agave nectar and orange juice! Obviously, the flour is also gluten free, but unlike almost any other gluten free baked good I've come across, there is no gum-based binder to help them stay together. I have to say I kind of made the recipe banking on failure, more to prove to myself that it couldn't be done, but boy, was I proven wrong.

Not only do these perfectly portioned cupcakes bake up perfectly, but they're everything I love about carrot cake - nothing frilly or frou-frou, just enough carefully metered accents to elevate the natural flavour of the carrots that compose 80% of the recipe's volume. I did make some changes, namely nixing the nuts from the original as well as halving the yield, because lets face it, that much carrot cake in my house is a whole world of disaster waiting to happen. Instead, I tossed in a few toasted sunflower seeds for crunch, and the next time I take these for a spin I think I'm going to try either my Homemade Egg Replacer or flaxseed in place of the egg to keep it vegan. Given that I'm growing heirloom, organic carrots again this year, I can't wait to see what nectar-like sweetness is extracted!

Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free Carrot Cupcakes

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Two - Bite Peanut Butter Caramel Cookies

Are you still grooving on the salted caramel fad from a couple years ago? I know I am - mostly because I'm a sucker for the sweet and salty combination, and hate when things are so saccharine that you get a sugar rush from one lick. I was the kid that would make peanut butter and Nutella (or honey, or corn syrup) sandwiches, or put maple syrup on my scrambled eggs and bacon. Most people would think that (at least the second one) was just weird, but there you are. 

One of my favourite "salty" components in my recipes is natural-style nut butter - as long as it has added salt. I find a lot of "regular" peanut butter these days is far too sweet, and almond butter more so thanks to almond's natural sweetness. I come by that honestly - both my parents are huge fans of peanut butter, and my dad is probably the biggest peanut butter and honey addict I know. Even my sister (arguably one of the pickiest people on the planet) loves the stuff - thankfully, since as a kid it was one of the only protein foods she'd touch! 

When I think about pairing peanut butter with sweet foods, chocolate is a natural and honey isn't bad, but I recently discovered the combination of crunchy peanut butter and salted caramel and I am sold. The salt in the caramel keeps the whole thing from tasting like a bad blind date, even if your peanut butter is the "regular" kind. Sorry, honey, but I think I've found a new love... at least in cookies. Add salted caramel sprinkles and chopped peanut butter cups, and you have yourself one divine treat! 

Two - Bite Peanut Butter Caramel Cookies

Monday, July 7, 2014

Vegan Chocolate Orange Torte #HolidayFoodParty

I am totally on a chocolate-orange kick these days! I think it's because during the (sometimes) intense heat of the summer, a pure chocolate dessert can be too rich on the palate, but by adding a pop of citrus everything turns out light and completely approachable. Favourites like those "Terry's Chocolate" Brownies are perfectly at home with a scoop of sorbet, and even this dense, almond laced, ganached chocolate torte is at home during a summer garden dinner thanks to a bright orange note.

Like traditional tortes (i.e. Sacher), this cake is dense and packed with nuts... but unlike most recipes you see, those nuts aren't held together by eggs, and the ganache isn't made of heavy cream. Nope, this cake is completely vegan, with balsamic vinegar and fruity extra virgin olive oil accenting the orange flavour and just the barest tinge of cocoa in the batter. The true chocolate star is the ganache glaze, using decadent bittersweet chocolate, orange juice and a teeny dab of oil to form a rich, thick crown on top. With such star players in this recipe (which I totally adapted from the book Vegan Chocolate by Fran Costigan), I didn't want to do the standard multilayered look either, so this single-layer recipe is a lot less finicky to deal with than a delicate stacked one.

I always think of French gourmet cuisine when it comes to nut-based cakes like this one, and definitely when it comes to pairing fruit and chocolate. Our #HolidayFoodParty theme this time around is Bastille Day, which falls on the 14th of July this year, and by the looks of things we have tout le parti planned! Check out all the treats below and be sure to stop by and say bonjour!

  1. Apple Tarte Tatin from Hungry Couple
  2. Chaussons aux Pêches from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
  3. Dark Chocolate Lavender Sables from gotta get baked
  4. Chocolate Cherry Brioche from The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
  5. Gougères (Herbed Cheese Puffs) from Crumb
  6. Mendiant from Cravings of a Lunatic
  7. Lemon Raspberry Madeleines from Kelly Bakes
  8. Chocolate Orange Torte from What Smells So Good?
  9. Cherry Clafoutis from Pineapple and Coconut
  10. Meyer Lemon Fingerling Potato Salad from Magnolia Days

Vegan Chocolate - Orange Torte

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mexican Flag Guacamole - a Chillin' #SundaySupper

Guacamole is a staple on many cookout tables, especially when the mercury starts rising. It's hard to argue with the light meal that can be made of tortilla chips and a dip assortment, it's a key component in 7-layer dip and when it's tossed with cooked pasta and chilled you have one of Summer's best, mayo-free pasta salads (you have to try it!). That said, the majority of the guac you can buy at the grocery store is, for lack of a better term, disturbing. The texture is off-putting for people like me (who are on the edge of avocado hate / like) as well as those who know what real avocado tastes like, and the colour stays eerily green despite all my homemade attempts at a recipe turning brown when exposed to air. I think a childhood of off-putting texture and bland flavour definitely dissuades me from enjoying the fruit, although my family can't get enough of them!

Near the end of school, I had one last hurrah with our kids' cooking lessons and decided to introduce them to the concept of a dip not out of a plastic container that they could make almost entirely themselves. Most of the kids had no idea what an avocado tasted like (they did know what it was, though), and their idea of Mexico was more akin to Taco Bell than Toluca. I decided on a "Cinco de Mayo" theme (late, but still fun) and brought in an antique festival dress I had purchased years ago but only worn a handful of times. The kids (and my supervising teachers!) had a great time learning about the celebration and couldn't wait to try making the dip fresh.

Being that avocados don't exactly proliferate up here, even the ripest fruit I could find left a little to be desired on the creaminess and flavour scale. Peering in the fridge while testing the recipe, I spotted my mom's container of Greek yoghurt and decided to dollop in a spoonful, almost as you would sour cream on a taco. The creaminess instantly came into its own, and with the diced tomatoes, homegrown scallions and garlic chives the dip took on a vibrant flavour and colour perfect for snacking! When it came to presenting the recipe to my classes, my reasoning for the yoghurt was to provide the "white" component in a Mexican flag-hued dish, helping me to tie in an extra aspect of the lesson with minimal segue. Not only did the kids love mashing it up, but they asked for seconds (and thirds!) of the dip on the multigrain "scoop" chips I found!

Mexican Flag Guacamole

This week's #SundaySupper is all about food to both keep you cool as well as being served cold. While this dip is equally delicious at room temperature or right out of the fridge, storing it in the icebox is the way to go if you're not eating it that minute. Our hostess this week is Alaiyo of Pescetarian Journal - thanks!

Brisk Beverages

Chilled Starters

Snappy Salads and Sides

Refreshing Main Dishes

Cool Confections
Sunday Supper Movement 
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. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

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

Friday, July 4, 2014

"Terry's Chocolate" Brownies (Gluten Free)

It seems like I'm the only person in my circle of peers that really doesn't like the combination of orange and chocolate. Granted, I'm picky about mixing either fruit or chocolate with anything anyways, preferring them to be au naturale (or combined with peanut butter, which can do no wrong). Luckily, my mom is a huge enough fan of orange infused chocolate for about 6 people, meaning that every Christmas she'll find clementines, a dark chocolate bar, and at least one (dark) Terry's Chocolate Orange.

It was with my mom (and a few friends) in mind that I made these dense, fudgey brownies. Gluten and dairy free, they're lightened, bound and moistened with eggs, orange juice and (the secret ingredient) chickpeas. The merest touch of tapioca starch and a hefty dose of high-quality cocoa add the "dry" component, and the works is sweetened with both conventional sugar and a stevia based blend. The resulting bars are fruity, slightly nutty and definitely a dark chocolate-lover's treat! Don't skimp on the processor time though - those eggs need a little workout!

Garbanzo Chocolate Brownies

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Lassy Mogs - a Canadian Treat!

Happy Canada Day!! If you're Canadian (especially if you're an East-coaster) you know there are certain foods that we enjoy that are relatively unknown in the rest of the world. The Jos. Louis, bagged milk, double-doubles, screech, dill pickle potato chips and Shreddies are all delicious portions of our culture that stay close to our maple leaf-emblazoned vests. Pockets of our country have more specialized local cuisine, like British Columbia's Nanaimo bars or these lassy mogs from the rocky province of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Lassy MogsMy first encounter with these spicy, soft and chewy cookies was out of a bag from the grocery store, but I'll never forget the combination of the bittersweet molasses, heady cinnamon, richly sweet dates, and toasted pecans. There was a "homey-ness" to them that smacked of kitchens of grandmas past, and while most of my friends never developed the love for them I did, they're definitely a cult-followed staple in households like ours! I always wondered about the name "lassy mog", figuring it had something to do with molasses but no idea what else. When my grandparents returned from a trip to the Newfoundland shores, they brought with them this recipe and the missing piece of trivia: turns out the name comes from the East-coast terms "lassy" (molasses) and "mogs" (soft, low rising cakes).  

I couldn't think of a more quintessential Canadian recipe to share on our country's birthday, and although I made it egg free for our household you can certainly go the traditional route with a single large egg. Either way, I definitely encourage you to try them - you might find yourself coming to visit before long!