Monday, September 29, 2014

Noodles in Lemon Sauce (for One)

With school back in full swing (and my new role as Home Economics teacher filling my off hours with lesson planning and recipe testing), fast and simple meals are definitely on the menu more often than not. I love Chinese (well Chinese-American) style food, but it's been ages since I've been able to have takeout from anywhere - not a bad thing, really, since my wallet and my health are better for it! Stir fries are the quintessential backbone of most of those dishes anyway, and given that they are so fast and simple to whip up a la minute it's only natural that meals like this one have graced my plate multiple times a week.

I actually started coming up with this combination of flavours when I had an unusual craving for lemon-sauce chicken. Now, I've never liked lemon chicken from the Chinese take-out place, but for some reason that sticky, thick and tangy-sweet dipping sauce was running through my mind. I was also craving a big bowl of veggies and carbs (what else is new?) so I decided to try combining the two for a simple dinner. The sauce was really the catch-all for a host of flavourful ingredients - fresh lemons, tamari, garlic, chilies and ginger, plus a healthy pinch of a premade Nanami Togarashi mixture were all sweetened a touch with stevia and thickened with tapioca starch. It cloaked the brown rice noodles, broccoli and beans delicately without the gluey cloying nature of it's takeout inspiration and was the perfect hit of exoticism for a mid-week, run-off-your-feet meal.

Lemon Sauce Noodles

Friday, September 26, 2014

Yoghurt and Brown Sugar Whipped Caramel

I have always loved the rich, tangy flavour of good yoghurt. I'm not talking about the every-fruit-under-the-sun, sticky-sweet flavoured kind - growing up, I was all about the tart vanilla or cappuccino offerings in the dairy case. I would still rather pick one of those flavours for eating on its own, but when it comes to baking and cooking the plain, tangy "natural" container is where I turn to. Not only does it taste great, but it's a great swap for sour cream in most things... cake, muffins, mock sourdough bread, and most recently candy.

As complex as it can be, I have a soft spot for creating candy at home. Give me a quiet morning with a clean kitchen, my digital thermometer and a bag of sugar I'm happy to let my imagination go to work. This time, I took inspiration from the book 300 Best Homemade Candy Recipes, turning their old-fashioned brown sugar fudge into a tablet of tangy, melt in your mouth confectionery. Not quite fudge, caramel or nougat, it's full of molassess-y brown and Muscovado sugar, with a pat of salted butter for decadence and just the right amount of creamy, plain Balkan yoghurt to temper the works. Once cooked and cooled, it's whipped into a thick mixture you'd be hard pressed to avoid licking off the beaters right away (or nibbling out of the pan at midnight). If it lasts that long in your house, a slice or chunk of the tawny caramel is a great visiting gift or sweet table offering too!

Yoghurt-Brown Sugar Whipped Caramel

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday

Monday, September 22, 2014

Eggplant "Bacon" or "Jerky" (#RecipeRedux)

When people find out that I have to adhere to a meat-free, low fat diet, they almost always ask me the same question - but don't you wish you could eat bacon? I honestly have to tell them no - I have nothing against it, but really, the highlight of my few Sunday brunches out was always the crispy home fries and the bottomless Tropicana OJ that my mom would never buy us. I also never really ate bacon in anything, even as "bits" on my salads or stirred into pasta - if I was going to eat it, it was going to be with something sweet (like maple syrup) and it had better be crispy.

While I don't crave bacon flavours like some people out there, I have to admit I do enjoy having a savoury, portable snack on hand for long car rides or when I'm stuck late at school. With a dehydrator (and a plethora of produce) at my disposal now, I wanted to see if I could make a sweet and salty "jerky" out of our delicious heirloom eggplants. I wound up cobbling together three other recipes, plus my own taste preferences, to come up with this snack. It's flavour-rich enough that you don't have to eat many on their own to be satisfied, plus they make excellent mix-ins for roasted breakfast potatoes and onions or topping a zesty Caesar salad.

Eggplant "Bacon"

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Kale and Sweet Potato Stew #SundaySupper

By now, most of you know that my mom and I are huge veggie fans. In fact, if it grows in the ground, chances are we'll at least give it the old college try - even if it's not a staple on our dinner plate at home. Even we have our exceptions though - I detest rutabaga and turnip in any form, and really don't like the taste of Winter squash all that much either (except delicata and butternut "fries", that is... those rock). My mom's nemeses are parsnips, okra and until very recently, kale.

While I haven't been able to win her over on the parsnip or okra side of things, I have succeeded in creating a craving for kale in my mom's persona. What turned her around on the curly green leafy was this stew that I extensively adapted from The Leafy Greens Cookbook by Kathryn Anible. A mixture of crunchy, natural style peanut butter and smooth cashew butter are the only true buffers against the combination of cayenne, serrano, habanero and black pepper in the base mixture, toning it down just enough to be flavourful and tear-inducing at the same time. The spices also temper the candy-like nature of the sweet potato and garden-fresh carrots, making for a hearty, vegan and gluten free dinner that knocks you down, then brings you back for more!

African Peanut Stew

This week on #SundaySupper, we are gearing up to celebrate any and all of Fall's fabulous food... from carnivals and festivals to the fantastic fruits and vegetables of the late season harvest. This week’s event is hosted by Coleen of The Redhead Baker with help from co-host Conni of The Foodie Army Wife. Thanks ladies!

Appetizers and Drinks

Soups, Stews, Chili, and Casseroles

Salads and Side Dishes
Main Dishes

Desserts and Baked Goods
Sunday Supper

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: Sunday Supper Movement.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ratatouille Sauce

The culinary highlight of my gardening season is always right at the end, when the last glut of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash all make their appearance. It's only then, when frost is threatening the tender leaves of those plants we worked so hard to grow, that we find our table, fridge and cold cellar bursting with produce of all colours, shapes and sizes that are begging to be enjoyed right this minute lest they self-destruct overnight. When not a single vegetable more can fit into our household, my mother and I silently and instinctively know what must be done: ratatouille.

Ratatouille at home was, for the majority of my childhood, a running joke my dad, mom and I shared. At the time, Mom was really the only person who liked the stewed vegetable medley, and for reasons that became obvious in the hours after the evening meal the recipe became known as "rataTOOTie". Of course, a lot has changed since then - namely, Mom and I eat a lot more vegetables more frequently, making our digestive tracts more receptive to fibre-rich, vegetable-packed main dishes. We've also taken the classic components of the French recipe and twisted them around a couple different ways, from a cumin-laced Moroccan version to a Disney-esque baked casserole and even a flash-in-the-pan microwaved version. This year, I took the theme of savouring Summer a little further and ventured into canning the sunshine-filled bounty of our garden, turning our favourite chunky ratatouille stew into a pasta-perfect sauce.

Ratatouille Sauce

Creating this pot of flavour was (at the risk of sounding crazy) quite transcendent for me. There was no recipe to use as a base, no required sofrito or roux or complex techniques, only the "voices" of those vegetables and herbs that were, until mere hours before, still growing and thriving outside. They told me when to add them, and with what - from a palmful of fresh thyme leaves and a spoonful of fennel seeds that evoked thoughts of sausage to the magical hint of nutmeg that adds an addictive aura to the sweet-tart tomato base. Stirred into a bowl of rotini, brown rice or wilted greens, it is a rich, fragrant and hearty meal that is perfect after a long day.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies #creativecookieexchange

When the weather gets that distinctive "Fall" nip in the air and I finally have to drag out the jacket for morning recess duty, I know it's definitely time to start thinking about the heartier "comfort" foods out there. Breakfast-wise, there's nothing more warming and stick-to-your-ribs than oatmeal - and if you're anything like me, the only way to make a breakfast (and/or bedtime snack) worthy bowl of that is to add fruit and chocolate!

My current favourite combination whenever I whip up a big ol' bowl of oats is dark chocolate chips, cocoa and mashed banana. That way, there's no need for sugar or milk at all - the rich creamy texture from the stirred flakes and fruit is almost risotto-like, and nothing short of decadent. When it came time to thinking about making a "comfort food" cookie for this month's #creativecookieexchange, I knew exactly where to turn for flavour inspiration! I found the perfect base recipe for my cookies on Your Homebased Mom, and not only did I bump up the dark chocolate flavour with bittersweet couverture dark chocolate wafers, I was even able to add the "creamy" component I love in it's hot cereal form by using a hint of cream cheese. One of my favourite "extras" to toss into any cookie, especially ones with whole grains, is flaxseed - it is such a subtly nutty ingredient that really amps up the other flavours, not to mention packing a boatload of nutrition too!

Banana Oatmeal Cookies

I wish I could go as far as to say these cookies fit the bill as breakfast fare, but let's face it... they're still cookies. Better for you than a storebought, cardboardy behemoth pastry, for sure, but a treat to savour and have for dessert. Besides, when you need comfort food, you're not necessarily concerned about the bottom (or waist) line at the time, are you?

Like I said, I'm participating in the #CreativeCookieExchange this month, started by Laura from The Spiced Life and Rebecka from At Home with Rebecka.  Each month they decide upon a different theme or ingredient, and then an ever-growing gang of baking bloggers whip up their own spin on the topic! This month is Comfort Food Cookies, and the offerings look stunning!

What cookie says comfort food to you? If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links. You can also just use us as a great resource for cookie recipes--be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Roasted Peaches in Vanilla Syrup

Peaches are truly Summer's gold. It's hard to pinpoint another piece of produce so rich in colour, flavour and sweetness, oozing pale amber, sticky and fragrant nectar with every bite at their peak. Sinking your teeth into the fuzzy, soft fruit is nothing short of divine for members of my family, especially since real, local and truly ripe peaches have a season just as fleeting as perfect snowflakes in Winter.

Roasted Peaches in Vanilla SyrupLuckily for us, though, perfect Summer peaches are plentiful in that short window, and take kindly to freezing and canning when eating them fresh just isn't possible (it's hard, even for three peach-aholics like us, to eat a bushel+ a week!). By saving them in various ways, we're never at a loss for a taste of Summer even if there's 3 feet of snow outside! This year, along with jam and a "butter" type spread (made by combining zucchini and peaches!) I made this decadent dessert topping. Simplicity and elegance in one, opening a jar reveals chopped, peeled peaches from a nearby orchard swimming in a peach nectar and vanilla syrup that I thickened ever so slightly with gelling (pectin-containing) sugar. While a batch or two did make it into the canner (and this year's Christmas gift stash), I couldn't resist saving a couple BIG jars for us to crack into right away... and let me tell you Sunday pancakes and weekday morning oatmeal have never been the same!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sweet and Tangy Pickled Beets

You know, with all my yakking lately about zucchini this and zucchini that, it's easy to think that the squash is the only thing my garden blessed me with this year. While the zucchini, eggplant and cucumber were definitely the most abundant crops we had this year, colder-weather treats like my heirloom carrots (yellow this year!) and beets are just coming into their prime and I couldn't be happier (we did get a few tomatoes this Summer, too, but the weather was too wonky for a sizable harvest). While the carrots are definitely my go-to sweet and crunchy snack during the day, the beets are my pride and joy - this year I grew a variety called Lutz, a heritage breed that stays rich and tender even when it gets to it's average size of 5-6" wide! Not only are their roots delectable, but the greens (especially those from thinning early in the year) are perfect leafies without any of that minerally bitterness I normally associate with dark greens.

Sweet and Tangy Pickled Beets

Wanting to save some of my bounty to share with others this Christmas, I opted for the most classic preservation method for the roots: pickling. To jazz them up a bit, though (I am the first to admit standard pickled beets are, well, blah) I raided my pantry and spice cabinet, spiking the vinegar brine with dark, luscious honey, BC red wine, cinnamon, allspice, black peppercorns and turmeric. Roasting the beets brought out their natural sugars for contrast, and once canned they were shelf ready to last the Winer (or at least as long as it takes for us to get through them!). The colour is as rich as the flavour too, providing a gorgeous addition to any gift basket this year that only tastes better the longer it sits on the shelf.

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Tofu Vegetable Soup #SundaySupper

After a week of enjoying 30C+ temperatures here, a thunderstorm has sent our temperatures diving. Don't get me wrong, we're not in the -40C range (yes, I remember you, December), but there's a distinct September nip in the air that makes a walk outside the perfect reason o cook up a pot of soup. Of course, the garden is still thriving enough that we're able to "shop" for ingredients to make produce-heavy lunches and dinners, a real treat - especially now that school and work have both ramped up again, keeping us from spending 24 hours a day ankle deep in dirt. We're also in that "interseasonal" period between Summer and Fall, packed with the sweetest of peppers and tomatoes, the last of the herbs, zucchini and eggplant, and the first gorgeous carrots, beets, potatoes and winter squash. The merest touch of that truly fresh flavour from the backyard adds such wholesomeness to our meals that it's impossible not to want to showcase it in a dish all its own.

Such is the case with this soup. A coupling of the desire for a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs soup after coming in from the rain and the gorgeous colours of a bounteous harvest, pretty much our whole garden and fridge stock found its way into the pot. Eggplant, zucchini, carrots, onions, tomatoes and herbs came straight from the backyard (freshly rain-washed, I might add), while locally-grown kale, garlic, leeks,and cauliflower met up with organic tofu to round out the rest of the broth. For a bit of a richer, "gourmet" edge, I tossed in a Parmesan rind as well, and finished the works with a handful of whole grain pasta. Whether freshly made or reheated the next day, it's a fabulous way to bid the height of the growing season farewell for another year and hunker down for the Winter with the jars of home-preserved goodness I made this season (recipes appearing here soon!).

Tofu Vegetable Soup

We're celebrating the bounty of squash this week for #SundaySupper, be it the Summer goodness of zucchini, crookneck and pattypans, or the Fall / Winter pumpkin, acorn and butternut varieties. Alice of A Mama, Baby & Shar-pei in the Kitchen and Christy of Confessions of a Culinary Diva are co-hosting this week. Thanks ladies!

Starters – Appetizers & Cocktails:

Pickles & Relish:

Soups & Salads:

Main Dishes

Side Dishes:

Sweets to Start or End the Day:
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, September 6, 2014

Chocolate Zucchini Cake (GF / V)

There's nothing quite like a good, rich and moist chocolate zucchini cake on the first bake-sale table of the school year. Zucchini picked at the end of the season are generally spongier than their early counterparts, and less desirable for savoury applications, but once they're shredded into fine threads and stirred into a flavourful, sweet batter the moisture still inherent in the vegetable works its magic, tenderizing the works as the vegetable itself disappears. The importance of this quality is even more obvious when it comes to gluten free bakes like this one - gluten free food is, on the whole, known for being dry and crumbly, but between the chocolate "milk", flaxseed and zucchini here, a piece of this cake hold an intense, rich moisture that lasts for days. Even warmed in the microwave to have as a bedtime snack, the taste and texture is just as rich as day one.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake (GF / V)

Of course, I can't claim all the credit here. I took inspiration from Our Fresh Kitchen, tweaking it to serve my needs and desires. Not having quinoa flour on hand, I made my own blend of rich and flavourful elements (including buckwheat flour, one of my favourite chocolate pairings), and by using a chocolate milk alternative I got a double whammy of cocoa flavour too. The cake is so rich and moist that it needs no frosting or glaze at all, but you could certainly adorn it with one of you chose. After tasting this, you'll wonder why you ever avoided vegetables as a little (or big) kid!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Milk - Rich Multigrain Sourdough

We are sourdough nuts around here. My mom and I love to scout the local bakeries (at least the ones that still make their bread in house) and farmer's markets for the latest tastes on offer, which are never the same twice in a row. Even the same sourdough recipe tastes different batch to batch, due to the dynamics of the starter, water and fermentation environment that shift from day to day. It's because of this subtle but magical change that we are drawn to more artisan style, "wild yeast" bread over conventional when shopping - and why, even though they take longer, I still bake sourdough loaves at home.

Milk - Rich Multigrain Sourdough

While a lot of sourdough recipes I see are relatively lean, with no added fat or eggs, I wanted to give a "milk bread" a shot after finding myself with a goodly quantity of whole milk nearing it's sell-by date. An egg adds extra richness too, and while I didn't add any fat to the dough itself (the milk does a more than thorough job of tenderizing) I couldn't resist brushing the top of the freshly baked loaf with a little butter. For a little bit of extra nutrition, though, I did opt for a 100% whole grain dough, and added extra grains in the form of an 8 grain hot cereal. The loaf had a nice tang, but was soft and ever so slightly sweet inside, perfect for morning toast as well as serving alongside a lunchtime bowl of soup. A slice is definitely a welcome addition to the lunchbox of parents and kids alike, and will keep you going for a while!

Milk - Rich Multigrain Sourdough

Shared with YeastSpotting