Thursday, December 31, 2015

Fudgy Black Sesame Brownies

Do you hold any stock in "good luck" symbols, especially around the New Year? I never actively think about it, buy in reality I do have a fair amount of "lucky" things in my daily life, from dream catchers, keys, evil eyes and trees of life to my diet rich in grains, greens and legumes. With all the amulets kicking around here, I really should expect to win the lottery soon - or at the very least, have a sudden windfall in my classroom situation. That said, I'm very much of the school of thought that we ultimately make our own fortunes, but a little help now and then doesn't hurt, does it?

These brownies, like the other "lucky" things for me, were not planned to be amulets of good fortune. They were planned to be rich in flavour, fudgy and refined sugar free! However, since it is New Year's Eve, I dug a little bit into the ingredients and method and found three little nuggets of information which hint at the possibility of a bite of these fudgy squares of goodness becoming a bona-fide talisman for 2016! Here's what I found:

First, baking (and sharing) baked goods is seen as an insurance policy that a household will always be warm, filled with friends and always has food. It's a Scottish custom to follow a tradition called "first footing" during Hogmanay (New Year's) in which the first person to enter a home (and what they carry) after the new year determines what kind of year the residents will have.

Second, the beans and grains in the brownies themselves. This is a well-known tradition worldwide, and for good reason - their appearance resembles coins, and the foods plump up as they cook - foretelling financial gains for those who eat them, I couldn't find any indication if purees like my black-eyed-pea based Brilliant Bean Dip, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip or hummus count... I hope so!

Sesame seeds are lucky again, due to their shape and plentiful nature. Seeds are also inherent symbols of fertility and immortality as they contain all the life-giving elements for a plant. Even more, the fact that sesame oil is a non-drying variety indicates that the lucky virtues it bestows on those who anoint with it or consume it won't "dry up".

Fudgy Black Sesame Brownies
Cool, huh? But really, these brownies are all about the flavour, which it has in spades! These get a ton of nutty (yet nut-free) flavour from black sesame seeds and toasted sesame oil - two of my favourite pairings with cocoa. For the dense, fudgy texture, I turned to one of my new favourite legumes - Tongues of Fire beans - which I pureed a la Nutella Stuffed Black Bean and Banana Cookies and Very Red Velvet Brownies. To sweeten things up a tad, I gave the batter a kiss of coconut sugar, agave and stevia, and used stevia sweetened chocolate chips in the mixture too. To keep the rich brownie-like texture going, I followed my tried-and-true baking method of putting the hot pan in the freezer for 30 minutes before taking to room temperature and cutting, which always works like a dream. Mom and I snuck a taste before tucking the bars into the freezer for tonight and they earned two BIG thumbs up!

Given that these bars are gluten - free , refined sugar - free and vegan, everyone can partake in good luck (or at the very least, good food) this New Years! Here's to a killer 2016 - we've earned it!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Gingerscotch Cookies

So, are you sick of cookies yet? Around here, we actually lucked out in the cookie department - short of a few shortbreads in our heirloom cookie tin (which are disappearing alarmingly fast), there isn't anything really decadent kicking around. We even managed to avoid The Everlasting Fruitcake of most Italian households, the panettone!

Of course, in my gift boxes I had to include my own batches of cookies, and this year ginger was a predominant theme. I'm always spurred to make a gingery concoction or two at the holidays since a few of my favourite giftees are ginger-holics, and I try to never repeat a recipe (mostly because I really don't have the ability to follow one most of the time!). Last year, one of the recipes I found and couldn't wait to make involved the addition of one of my favourite "soft cookie" ingredients in an unusual flavour - butterscotch pudding mix! I have never paired ginger with butterscotch in my mind, but upon reflection realized the caramel tones really work well - especially since it's a less cloyingly sweet option normally played by molasses (which these cookies lack).

Butterscotch Ginger Cookies

I did play around with the original recipe, though - mostly in terms of spices, although I did use half non-hydrogenated shortening (for easier rolling and better shape retention) and some of my Truvia Baking Blend (for less sugar!) too. The butterscotch, which I originally worried would overpower the cookies, actually only lent a subtle, yet undeniably decadent, flavour while providing the full amount of tenderness I've come to expect by pudding-mix cookies. Not really either chewy or cakey, they're a unique option for any spice cookie fans out there!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tart Lime Jam (Toast Topper #65)

Since I made my fair share of treats centred around my favourite desserts this holiday season, I felt it was only fair to make a couple things inspired by my friends and family's cravings too. I've mentioned before that my mom is a huge fan of key lime anything, from pie to ice cream. One year while we were vacationing in Florida we came across a key lime jelly that was to die for - the perfect mixture of sweet and tart, completely reminiscent of the classic pie. We bought two jars, and upon getting home they both disappeared within a month - my favourite way to savour it was spread on a cream cheesed bagel - or if I was feeling decadent, using a graham cracker as the base instead. Mom added it to everything, but I seem to recall a large amount of Saturday morning pancakes and crepes with the spread in lieu of syrup! 

This whole jam experience was over 10 years ago, and neither of us ever forgot the flavour of that jam. For mom (and, lets face it, for me too), I made my own batch of lime jam - a lower-sugar formula to allow all the bright, tangy flavours of the citrus to shine through, and allow us to smear on just that little bit more on our toast in the morning. The whole thing set up perfectly with Pomona's Pectin (my go-to for all my jammy Toast Toppers), and canned like a dream - I decided to part with a few jars at Christmas, but the rest is ours - ready and waiting for months of enjoying! 

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays 

Tart Lime Jam

Monday, December 28, 2015

Sticky Toffee Date and Gingerbread Granola

In the crush of computer problems, visitors, lesson planning, traveling and various pet issues with multiple vet visits (a very long, cat / rat / dog story), one thing I never got around to this season was taking many photos! Often, my smartphone was standing in place of my gorgeous (albeit bulky) point-and-shoot, and those I did take with the P&S have yet to be uploaded / edited because there's always something else in the making! That said, all horrible photos aside, the stuff that's been coming out of the oven these days has been nothing short of delicious!


Of course, all of this is just a cover for the fact that I totally forgot to take any photos of these two amazingly hearty, chunky, stick-to-your-ribs granolas I whipped up for my Christmas boxes this year. I was definitely inspired by a few of my favourite desserts this year (as if the "Date Square" Granola wasn't enough of a hint) and quickly went about doing my "thing" with the mixes - which is to say throwing every grain and avenue of flavouring I had at them. As a result, my Sticky Toffee Date batch is definitely more on the decadent side of things, but it's also significantly higher in protein thanks to the high-protein hot cereal mix I added to the oats, ancient grains, nuts and seeds. A good dollop of date paste, date molasses and a sprinkling of toffee bits don't hurt matters in the flavour department either - and it's not like you're going to sit down to a giant bowl of this stuff every morning! Well, you might, but I'm not judging :-)

If you're on the dessert flavour train with me, but are looking for a little bit of a lighter option for your granola, the Gingerbread recipe is definitely one for you! It's packed with apple butter and pumpkin puree and gets it's sweetness from molasses and stevia - no refined sugar added! For more of a "cookie" aspect I tossed in a handful of graham cracker crumbs, which along with the instant oatmeal helped the clusters "clump" and make a truly chunky granola. A few pumpkin seeds added a little extra crunch for kicks too, and like the Sticky Toffee Date variety, I added some kinako for an extra protein and fibre boost.

So, apologies for the lack of photos, but please don't let that dissuade you from whipping up a batch or two for yourself. Who knows, it could be the kickstarter for your New Years Resolution to eat better (or at the very least, breakfast!).

Sticky Toffee Date Granola
Makes 8 cups, 16 (½ cup) servings
1 cup date paste
¼ cup date molasses or honey
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp butter flavour
1 tbsp butterscotch schnapps (optional but yummy!)
½ cup water
2 tbsp canola oil
½ tbsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
Pinch of salt
2 cups large flake rolled oats
2 cups high protein hot cereal (I used Dixie Diner’s Cinnamon & Spice Low Carb Instant Hot Cereal)
⅓ cup raw millet
2 tbsp amaranth
⅓ cup shredded coconut
½ cup kinako
½ cup chopped almonds
½ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup toffee bits
¼ cup raisins
5 dried figs, diced
  1. Combine all the “wet” ingredients and seasonings (date paste through salt), then add remaining “dry” ingredients except toffee bits, raisins and figs, stirring well.
  2. Bake on a lined baking sheet at 300F for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so until oats are golden. Turn off the oven and let stand inside for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from the oven and immediately stir in Skor bits, raisins and figs. Cool on the sheet.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 320.3
Total Fat: 9.3 g
Cholesterol: 1.0 mg
Sodium: 321.7 mg
Total Carbs: 44.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 9.7 g
Protein: 17.6 g

Gingerbread Granola
Makes ~ 9 ½ cups, 19 (½-cup) servings
⅓ cup pumpkin puree
½ cup apple butter
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp molasses (not blackstrap)
¼ tsp liquid stevia
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
½ tbsp vanilla
1 ½ cups large flake rolled oats
½ cup instant oats
⅓ cup graham cracker crumbs (Mary's Gone Crackers makes a refined-sugar free graham!)
½ cup kinako
3 tbsp millet
½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  1. Combine all the “wet” ingredients and seasonings (pumpkin puree through vanilla), then add remaining “dry” ingredients, stirring well.
  2. Bake on a lined baking sheet at 300F for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so until oats are golden. Turn off the oven and let stand inside for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from the oven and cool completely on the sheet
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 93.7
Total Fat: 2.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 46.7 mg
Total Carbs: 14.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.6 g
Protein: 3.1 g

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Hélène's Beautiful Pears

Well, we made it through Christmas! While it's almost never smooth sailing (especially here, with 4 meals at one place and 1 at another, 3 different diets and one oven), the week of celebrations heralded everything that the season is about - love, peace, laughs and family. In terms of meals, the new "convection roast" function on our oven made a spectacular turkey while the warming drawer kept everything else perfectly hot, the collaborative vegetarian pasta dish mom and I made for Christmas Eve (roasted cauliflower, peppers and ricotta) was divine, the Clementine and Cranberry Sauce I adapted from Aimée's book Brown Eggs and Jam Jars has been slathered on everything from mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts to our toasted leftover Challah this morning.  

With so many rich meals so close together this year, dessert was simple - dishes of ice cream with a spoonful of these cocoa-laced pear preserves. I was inspired by the Poires Belle Hélène recipe in Camilla Wynne's book Preservation Society Home Preserves: 100 Modern Recipes a few weeks back when planning gift baskets, and with the glut of Asian pears in the local store I decided to try those out instead of the traditonal Anjou. Muscovado sugar and a kiss of Grand Marnier upped the elegance a wee bit - and with the inspiration being more of an adult-friendly one anyways I wasn't pulling any punches with the flavour. I wound up making a second batch for holiday gifts, after the first one mysteriously disappeared - but who knows how those North Pole elves celebrate?

Hélène's Beautiful Pears

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Mini Tourtières

Our family has a few holiday traditions - a big brunch with Mom's infamous Holiday Brioche and Challah taking centre stage, dancing with the turkey and of course as many batches of shortbreads as humanly possible before school starts again in January. Over the years we've added the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve to the docket, too. My own "traditions" during the season involve making granola and biscotti to go into the gift boxes I give in lieu of purchased gifts, and this year I added a new one - homemade freezer meals for both my grandmother and a friend to enjoy in the New Year.

I've always associated meat tarts like Scotch pie and French-Canadian tourtière with spending weekends at my grandma's house - it seemed like that was our go-to dinner at least one night, usually paired with carrots, peas or a salad. It has been ages since I've broken into the flaky shell of one to enjoy the flavourful, spiced meat filling - not only because of my own food restrictions but simply because making them is a process not fit for a fast weeknight dinner. Since it is Christmastime, though, and tourtière is one of the traditional francophonie holiday meals, I decided I'd make some (smaller sized) pastries for grandma to enjoy.

Ironically, these pot pies actually contain no meat at all! With the economic crunch yet again putting strain on the food budgets everywhere, even the cheapest ground meats are getting ridiculously expensive. Our family as a whole has been eating less animal protein and more vegetarian options like lentils, beans and eggs - and in things like chili, bolognese sauce and shepherds pie, we're stretching the meat with TVP. Some foodies will turn their noses up at this, but when soaked in a flavourful liquid (or simply added to the stew or sauce) it's almost indistinguishable - and the same case goes for these tourtières. Not only is the basic recipe spiced well originally, but by combining "unbeef" broth, tamari, vegan Worcestershire sauce and red wine with the vegetable crumbles the umami flavour really shines through and the texture is dead-on. All that was left is to add were the traditional herbs and spices, grated potatoes and onion - and for a festive twist, a shot of cognac too!

Finally, I thickened the works with some kinako from our Asian market, since we were sorely lacking crackers in any form for the traditional binder.

Mini Tourtières

Whether you're looking to save a little money this season or are simply trying to reduce the meat you eat, these little 2-serving pies are a great option. Make a batch on the weekend and freeze for later - just pull one out to thaw overnight and bake, covered, at 350F for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tigernut (Chufa) Biscotti

It's biscotti time again! I find it ironic that every year, I choose to make the cookies that technically last the longest at the very end of the baking spree - after all the shortbreads, drop and sandwich cookies, candy and fudge, granola and tarts are packed up and in various stages of either being consumed or stored. Biscotti - in all its various incarnations over the years - has remained a clear favourite in both the family circle and the friends I gift the crunchy sticks to.

The recent years have seen a definite upswing in the presence of food restrictions I'm baking for - it seems like everywhere I turn somebody is avoiding eggs, meat, nuts, soy, sugar, corn and - the biggest "baddie" of all - gluten. While I have my own thoughts as to these (usually) self-imposed restrictions - for instance I only know of 5 people who require a gluten free diet every day for life, no exceptions, no cheating - I do my best to cater to them because, as a foodie and nutritionist, I can. Gluten free baking isn't overly complex for me any more, but in the craziness of the holiday rush, simple is often best! This particular recipe is inspired by Ricki Heller's Grain-Free Hazelnut Biscotti with Cinnamon Glaze and the resulting cookies are  gluten, egg, Tree Nut, refined sugar, peanut, soy and corn free (if you use Corn-Free Baking Powder). Just because I could - and really, the flavour was fabulous paired with the tigernut flour - I tossed in a glug of Butterscotch Schnapps for good measure! They don't need any sort of frosting or chocolate to sing on their own, but a cup of mocha on the side? You're on!

Tigernut (Chufa) Biscotti

What allergies do you cook or bake for over the holidays (or everyday)? What's your go-to dish?

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Monday, December 21, 2015

Candy Cane Foot Soak

I count myself lucky that I don't have to hit the malls at Christmastime to shop for gifts. To be fair, I do contend with my fair share of shopping centre parking insanity (thanks to my gym being in the mall itself) but I'm not waiting in lines, bags and boxes in hand, anxiously watching the seconds left to wrap and tag my purchases slip away while crotchety so-and-so in front of me tried to price-match her blender (not that I'm speaking from experience, of course...).Instead, I can quietly slip in and out of a secondary entrance and save my energy for when I get home to the endless gift boxes I give as gifts in lieu of purchased trinkets.

Candy Cane Foot Soak

Whether we're spending the holiday week (or so) trekking the markets for the latest toys or gadgets for those on your list, in the kitchen cooking up batches of cookies, tarts, muffins, freezer meals and cakes, or hitting the gym because we finally have a few moments to ourselves (what?) our poor feet definitely take a beating this time of year. Throw in the high heels from holiday and New Years parties, stray bits of Lego, beads and bells underfoot and the occasional runaway ornament, and our soles will be beyond done come January 2. While we can't always prevent tired tootsies this season, luckily it's beyond easy to whip up a big batch of this sweet, minty, relaxing and detoxifying Candy Cane Foot Soak and keep it in the bathroom cabinet for whenever the need arises. If you're feeling particularly Saint Nick-like, pass along a jar to a shopping buddy. That way, you'll be ready to hit the Boxing Day sales (or the Resolution Rush at the gym) and your toes will smell fabulous too!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Chimichurri Bread #SundaySupper

I can't believe it's less than a week until Christmas day arrives! frankly, I'm happy for that fact, because like every year I am already 110% holiday-ed out and ready for a true vacation where I can chill out, tend to myself (read: Zumba time!), my blog, latent book reviews, languishing sourdough starter and ever-patient cat. Of course, until December 26, the kitchen is a flurry of activity - between me putting together the finishing touches on cookies and chocolates for gift baskets to preparing components of holiday meals, breads and endless batches of shortbread cookies. The oven is almost constantly on and occupied, but when guests come over it always seems to be a scramble to set out enough nibbles in time! 

This year,  I took a leaf out of my Home Ec syllabus and whipped up an Argentine-inspired appetizer to set out during one of the many gatherings taking place this month. Thanks to a demi-loaf of homemade baguette in the freezer, all I had to do was beat together some herbs, garlic, cheese and butter, smear it onto the halved loaves and slap it onto a panini press plugged in away from the main action of the stove and oven. By using the press (you could use an electric grill pan or George Foreman too), it keeps the large appliances free for the mains and sides while still allowing for a hot, crispy and gooey addition to the party platters. Pair it up with some sangria, a bowl of chilled, grilled shrimp, crudites and salsa and you've got a taste of the balmy southern hemisphere on your table - even when it's snowy out! 

Chimichurri Bread

Today, the Sunday Supper tastemakers are easing the holiday rush with recipes perfect for last-minute gatherings, cravings and "oh yeah, I should eat" moments!

Gluten Free Holiday Mocha by Gluten Free Crumbley
The Frenchy by Books n’ Cooks

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread by Ruffles & Truffles
Chocolate Cranberry Mini Muffins by Sew You Think You Can Cook

Cauliflower-Apple Melts by The Wimpy Vegetarian
Chimichurri Bread by What Smells So Good?
Everything Cream Cheese Balls by Magnolia Days
Mini Party Crab Cakes by Food Lust People Love
Holiday Bruschetta by Grumpy’s Honeybunch
Lobster Salad in Puff Pastry Cups by The Weekend Gourmet
Potato Kimchi Bacon Bites by kimchi MOM
Quick Crab Stuffed Mushrooms by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
Scallops with Cranberry Bacon Jam by Caroline’s Cooking
Shrimp and Artichoke Crostini by Monica’s Table
Spanakopita Bites by Casa de Crews
Tortellini Caprese Bites by The Freshman Cook
Tropical Cocktail Wings by Cindy’s Recipes and Writings

Main Dishes
Bean, Escarole, & Sausage Soup by Get the Good Stuff
Chicken Cacciatore Pronto by Crazy Foodie Stunts
Easy Chicken Fried Rice by Feeding Big
Swedish Meatballs by Palatable Pastime

Side Dishes
Apple Pecan Salad by Wholistic Woman
Bourbon Glazed Sweet Potatoes by Cosmopolitan Cornbread
Healthier Hoppin’ John by Cooking Chat
Italian Sausage & Broccoli Rabe Stuffing by The Food Hunter’s Guide to Cuisine

4-Ingredient Double Chocolate Christmas Fudge by Cupcakes & Kale Chips
Bananas Foster Bread Pudding by Wallflour Girl
Dark Chocolate Coconut Pecan Cups by PancakeWarriors
Frangelico French Silk Pie by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Holiday Pie Crust Cookies by Rhubarb and Honey
Peppermint Bark Pretzels by Pies and Plots
Red Velvet Eggnog Cheesecake Trifle by The Crumby Cupcake
Santa Cookies by
Skillet Cookies by Lifestyle Food Artistry
Soft and Chewy Lemon Cookies by Serena Bakes Simply From Scratch
White Chocolate Covered Gingerbread OREOS by Renee’s Kitchen Adventures
White Chocolate Peppermint Fudge by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks

Sunday Supper MovementJoin 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, December 19, 2015

Cranberry Pineapple Drop Cookies

I've been making my fair share of "cookie-biscuit" hybrids these days. Most of the time, these soft, cakey treats are the result of using less solid fat and/or sugar in the dough in favour of wetter fruit or vegetable purees (think pumpkin and apple butter). While it is usually yours truly doing at least some of this swapping, occasionally I come across a recipe in a (non-diet) cookbook that does the work for me! 

I've been paging through Joanne Fluke's Lake Eden Cookbook again (there the Merry Berry Cookies came from) and discovered these semi-tropical goodies perfect for bringing a bit of brightness to the holiday cookie tray. Of course, I had to throw in my own flair too, adding dried pineapple and using coconut and whole wheat flours. I also added a touch of extra goodness by swapping in Truvia for half the sugar, non-fat Greek yoghurt for sour cream and silken tofu for the eggs. The end result was perfect - thicker cookies baked up like scones and would be more than passable at afternoon or mid-morning tea time, while smaller drops got a slight crisp to the outside but stayed moist and fluffy inside. The crushed pineapple adds a sweet -tart flavour that is echoed by the cranberries and stays bright even after baking!

Cranberry Pineapple Drop Cookies

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Gluten Free Chocolate Biscotti #CreativeCookieExchange

One of the best things about making biscotti for the holiday season is that they are almost impossible to screw up. I mean really - when you think about it, they are essentially the croutons of the cookie world - deliberately dried out and crunchy (so no worries about refrigerating), sturdy and full of potential. I've used leftovers (or saved "ends") from batches of biscotti to make cookie balls, crumb crusts, mincemeat tarts and even cake fillings. I have a friend who once used gingersnap crumbs in her Eastern European meatballs, and I bet spicy biscotti crumbs would be killer in those too.

Biscotti are also fabulous vessels for modification and elaboration. Traditionally made with hefty amounts of nuts and eggs, I've successfully made killer batches without either - and this year I started to dabble in the world of gluten free biscotti too. I have an ever-growing list of friends, colleagues and acquaintances with food allergies or intolerances, so when it comes to putting together the gift boxes of various preserves, cookies and candies having at least a couple "safe" options in my back pocket that are easy to bake ahead and don't require special storage (hello, biscotti!) is a true gift to both me and those recipients. After all, we all deserve a little sweet joy at the holiday time, right?

Gluten Free Double Chocolate Biscotti

This particular batch of rich, dark chocolate biscotti is gluten, dairy, nut and soy free, and thanks to Truvia they're also lower in sugar. For decadence, stevia-sweetened chocolate chips and black sesame seeds stud the slices, while teff flour and a pinch of black pepper add that little extra "something". If I didn't need to give out every last one, these would be in my pantry the whole season for dunking into coffee or hot chocolate after shoveling (once it snows, that is) or simply grabbing from the cupboard as a mid-morning snack.

This #CreativeCookieExchange event is celebrating the deliciously dunkable biscotti. Biscotti (or mandelbrot or any other twice baked cookie by any other name) are one of the perfect Holiday tin cookies! They last forever, and there are so many ways to make them festive. So we’ve got you covered--sweet, savory, low fat, loaded with decadence, you name it, we’ve got it! Happy Holidays!   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!

If you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

  • Almond Lemon Biscotti by Basic N Delicious

  • Banana Walnut Biscotti by Upstate Ramblings

  • Chocolate Almond Biscotti by Karen's Kitchen Stories

  • Chocolate Toffee Biscotti by Live Bake Love

  • Currant Walnut Biscotti by Magnolia Days

  • Dark Chocolate and Pistachio Biscotti by Flours and Frostings

  • Gingerbread Biscotti by Food Lust People Love

  • Gluten Free Chocolate Biscotti by What Smells So Good?

  • Holiday Biscotti Bar by The Spiced Life

  • Honey Beescotti by Oven Delights

  • Mocha Biscotti by A Baker's House

  • Orange Pistachio Biscotti by 2 Cookin' Mamas

  • Parmesan Black Pepper Biscotti by A Shaggy Dough Story

  • Peppermint Kahlua Chocolate-Dipped Biscotti by All That's Left Are The Crumbs

  • White Chocolate Glazed Gingerbread Biscotti by Christmas Tree Lane

  • Sunday, December 13, 2015

    "Date Square" Granola

    Now that report cards are done and filed (two major computer glitches later!), I've been able to come back to the kitchen and blog and catch up on all my holiday must-do recipes! Like every year, the majority of my gift recipients will be getting boxes of assorted homemade goodies - from preserves and salsas to cookies, biscotti, chocolates and of course, granola!

    This year, I found myself with an unbelievable amount of dried dates after cleaning out my pantry, and was immediately inspired to make a granola with the flavours of one of my favourite desserts - the date square. My grandma used to make buttery, oaty, coconutty date crumble bars filled with a thick, squidgy layer of orange infused fruit paste at least once a year, and the smell of the paste baking in this mixture of gluten free grains, coconut and almonds brought me back to my 8 year old self. Not satisfied with simply using pureed dates, I added a glug of date "molassses" (also called silan) for a little extra caramelly oomph. Coconut and almonds added just the right amount of extra "yum" and crunch, making it perfect for breakfast or dessert.

    I decided to go the gluten free route with quinoa flakes, buckwheat, millet, amaranth and teff so that I could give away assorted jars of granola to everyone on my list - not to mention using all those pseudograins added a good dose of fibre and protein to the mix as well!

    "Date Square" Granola

    Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

    Thursday, December 3, 2015

    Vanilla Bean Sandwich Cookies with Gianduja Filling #BornOnTheFarm

    I'm the first to admit that I'm a 150% choco-holic. Vanilla anything has never been my speed - give me coffee, cherry, caramel or lemon flavours... just not plain-jane, pale vanilla. I'd leave the vanilla half of the Girl Guide cookie box, white birthday cake, soft serve ice cream and white chocolate truffles untouched as a kid - passing up their plain, saccharine flavour for richer, tangy or bitter ingredients like espresso, lemon, cherry or bittersweet chocolate. Vanilla, to me, was my dad's flavour. Chocolate belonged to me.

    Over the years, though, I've developed an understanding with the "whitewashed" flavour. Part of this was realizing that the floral notes of vanilla were actually delicious when paired with those tangy or otherwise full-bodied bases I'm drawn to - things like yoghurt, sour cherry, apples, coffee and hot cocoa. The clincher was actually tasting what real vanilla was like. Not vanillin, not "vanilla flavouring" or "essence", but true, honest to goodness pods. Plump with seeds and bursting with aroma that infuses everything it touches, it's a whole other world. Now I make my own (high proof) extract with "de-seeded" beans, supplement my stash with vanilla bean paste and double-strength vanilla extract and add dashes of either coarse or fine vanilla sugar to what would normally be simply "white" bakes. I've never looked back.

    Giandujia filled #vanilla bean #cookies made with Gay Lea's new Smooth Cottage Cheese.  #yum #food #cooking #baked #chocolate #foodie #dessert

    So in the spirit of "making peace" in every way we can this time of year, I created what I think is a perfect marriage of opposites. On one hand, I poured a ton of vanilla bean flavour into these tender slice-and-bake cookies - vanilla sugar, vanilla seeds, vanilla extract and a new find for me - creamy, melt-in-your-mouth decadent Nordica Smooth Vanilla Bean Cottage Cheese. I was generously given a voucher from the folks at Gay Lea (AKA my family's "butter suppliers" every Holiday cookie season), and when I found the Vanilla Bean flavour alongside the Lemon and Caramel packs at my local store I was immediately inspired to bake with it! I based this recipe off of the ricotta cookies I made earlier (Caramel-Almond Latte Ricotta Cookies and Ricotta Cookies with Peanut-Nutella Swirl) but without a baked-in filling. Instead, a scoop of homemade Gianduja Crème Filling between baked rounds fit the bill perfectly, and added a rich nutty, slightly bittersweet element and colour contrast that made for a striking cookie plate addition.

    About Nordica Smooth Cottage Cheese (from Gay Lea): 

    Canadians love to snack and are always looking for healthy snacking options. In fact, 33% of consumers are snacking on healthier foods this year compared to last. Gay Lea has introduced the perfect, protein packed snack to help get through that afternoon slump – Nordica Smooth Cottage Cheese.

    Nordica Smooth Cottage Cheese comes in three delicious flavours – Salted Caramel, Lemon and Vanilla Bean. You can enjoy all the benefits of cottage cheese without the lumpy texture, including:

    • 10 grams of protein per serving
    • Only 110 calories
    • 15% of your recommended daily intake of calcium
    • Gluten-free
    • Unimaginably smooth, delicious taste
    • Can be enjoyed on its own or as a part of your favourite smoothie

    Ingredients: milk ingredients, milk protein, sugar, water, rice starch, natural flavor, vanilla bean, guar gum, xanthan gum, carrageenan, locust bean gum, lemon juice concentrate, active bacterial cultures, microbial enzyme

    MSRP: $3.99-$4.99 (4 x 100g cups)

    Available at: Metro, Food Basics, Sobeys, FreshCo, Foodland, Loblaws, Zehrs, Your Independent Grocer, Real Canadian Superstore, Longo’s, Farm Boy, Coppa, Highland Farms, Vince’s and more.

    Whether you crave a sweet treat or need a punch of protein in your day, Gay Lea knows that cottage cheese is not your usual choice – until now. It only takes one tiny taste to change everything you know about cottage cheese. By smoothing out the lumpy texture, this new innovation is like nothing you’ve tried before!

    Saturday, November 28, 2015

    Chocolate – Pear Biscotti - A #Cookielicious Exchange Party

    As much as I detest the actual holiday "day" of Christmas (too much traveling, traffic, to-do lists, timing and people in general for this anti-social girl!), the holiday season is always a special one for me. I adore the preamble to the big day: the general "giving" atmosphere that infuses everyone around this time (even as they shove each other out of the way for the last "must have it" toy on their kid's wishlist), the cheesy, grainy reruns of Rudolph and How the Grinch Stole Christmas on TV, dragging out the stack of "play it once a year" CDs (including my mom's copy of Handel's Messiah, which my sister and I mock ruthlessly), clamouring for the absolute awesomeness that is a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert and of course, the month-long bake fest that perfumes every nook and cranny of the house with aromas of butter, sugar, spice and happiness.

    I bake a fair assortment of treats every year to accompany the various canned Toast Toppers and sauces, granolas and candy nestled into the gift boxes destined for friends and family. Aside from the quintessential shortbreads, nothing stays exactly the same from year to year. That said, the same themes repeat with more or less regularity: some form of ginger-laden cookie for my all-time favourite teacher (now a co-worker!), at least one gluten - free and vegan offering for the ladies at my hair salon, kid - friendly drop cookies for my friend's brood and a few batches of biscotti for the Italian clan. The biscotti are almost always my "ace in the hole" during the holidays - not only are they the ultimate "keeping" cookie, but the basic formula is infinitely variable. With a few years of twice-baked batter under my belt now, I've started to apply the "re-bake" theory to leftover muffins and quickbreads as well. The "muffinscotti" taste like a perfect marriage of cookie and cracker, and have won over even the most vehement anti-crunchy cookie people I know.

    Roasted Pear and Bittersweet Chocolate Biscotti

    These particular biscotti are a marriage of "traditional" and "nouveau" ideas. I say that because they are made from a dough that I always intended for biscotti and baked the "traditional" way (i.e. a single log, then sliced and rebaked as sticks). Unlike traditional biscotti, though, this dough is actually a scone recipe that is filled with roasted fresh fruit and dark chocolate. I figured that if I could biscotti-fy banana bread, why not a simple scone? All I had to do was make one big, long scone "block" instead of individual wedges (baked proportionately longer, of course), then follow standard twice-baking procedure.

    The result? Absolutely indescribably delicious! Buttery, just sweet enough, filled with occasional bursts of just tender, caramelized fruit and decadent, bittersweet chocolate chunks. Crunchy, but not "break-your-teeth" hard, they make perfect coffee dunkers as well as traffic-jam snacks!

    Today's cookies are entered in a special event put on by the great team at #SundaySupper. December is all about cookies, and we're kicking things off with A #Cookielicious Exchange Party! Check out the decadent sweet treats from the partygoers below, and be sure to stop in on Tuesday for our Twitter chat!

    Plus, 20 Cookie Baking Tips and Holiday Cookie recipes from Sunday Supper

    Join us for a #Cookielicious chat at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday, Dec. 1, on Twitter We will be sharing tips for cooking baking along with stories about our favorite family recipes. Follow the #Cookielicious hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great cookies recipes, check out our Cookie Jar Pinterest board.

    Sunday, November 22, 2015

    Pumpkin - Flax Pancakes #TheRecipeRedux

    I think the worst part about November is that it's one of those drab, blah "in between" months of the year. The colours and aromas of October's Autumn (with our Thanksgiving and Halloween nestled in cozily) are long gone, along with the bulk of any locally harvested produce. However, we're not quite into the full throes of the "Winter Holiday" season with the sweet flavours of butter, sugar, eggnog and mulled wine, vibrant lights, silver and gold baubles and red, white and green pinstripes. No snow is on the ground (whew!), but there's no colour out there either, and the days lately have either been so cold, rainy, windy or all three that being outside is not a joy for anyone.

    Pumpkin-Flax Pancakes

    Well, I decided that my Home Ec class would do it's part to "warm up" the environment a little bit - visually, temperature-wise and taste-wise. Roasted, pureed pumpkin added a burst of golden colour (not to mention immune-boosting vitamins) to the hearty, oat flour and flaxseed batter, which (thanks to the use of flax milk) is also dairy free. For extra "pumpkin pie-ness" I tossed in a dash of homemade pumpkin pie spice, and topped the stacks off with a compote made of late-harvest apples, maple syrup, cinnamon and ginger. While I thought the kids would go nuts for the "sweetness" factor of the compote, they surprised me by devouring almost all of their cakes plain - and asking for leftovers to eat cold after school! Just goes to show you that healthier food isn't always "adult-only" fare - just let the kids "steal" it from you (and make a second batch while they're outside burning the first one off).

    Sunday, November 15, 2015

    Mexican Turkey - Bean Soup #SundaySupper

    If there's one thing I don't mind about the dip in the temperature these days, it's the fact that I'm no longer whined at when I head to the kitchen and crank up the stove and oven. The Fall and Winter are prime "cozy food" seasons, making soup, stew, dense, grainy bread and baked desserts more than welcome at the dinner table, and heartier breakfasts like French toast and pancakes ideal any day of the week.

    Since I'm teaching full time (and have outside recess duty), "warm-your-insides" meals are the order of things - and with the holiday gift giving season coming up, the more frugally I can live life day-to-day, the better! By cleaning out my stash of carefully prepped and frozen staples (cooked beans, shucked corn, shredded kale and zucchini, roasted Summer tomatoes, leftover roasted turkey and homemade turkey broth) and pairing it with year round staples like carrots, onions and sweet potatoes, I soon had a huge pot of chunky, stick-to-your-ribs soup packed with the soulful Southwestern spices I always seem to turn to when the chilly air blows through.

    Mexican Turkey Bean Soup

    This #SundaySupper is featuring frugal flavours - from soup like this one to hearty mains and decadent desserts. Our hosts this week are Shelby from Grumpy’s Honeybunch and Caroline from Caroline’s Cooking - thanks ladies!

    Save-Your-Pennies Soups:
    Bean and Bacon Soup by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
    Mexican Turkey Bean Soup by What Smells So Good?
    Pasta e Fagioli by The Food Hunter’s Guide to Cuisine
    Turkey and Dumpling Soup by Palatable Pastime
    Vegan Broccoli Cheese Soup by Pancake Warriors

    Budget-Savvy Bread and Salads:
    Mom’s Buttermilk Biscuits by Grumpy’s Honeybunch
    Turkey Salad by Food Done Light

    Money-Saving Mains:
    Black Bean and Bell Pepper Quesadillas by My San Francisco Kitchen
    Cajun Blackened Chicken Thighs by Feeding Big
    Chicken Enchilada Casserole by Cosmopolitan Cornbread
    Chicken Enchiladas by The Freshman Cook
    Chicken Piccata by Monica’s Table
    Chicken Tetrazzini by Renee’s Kitchen Adventures
    Chimichurri Chicken Thighs by Life Tastes Good
    Dutch Baby Pancakes by Brunch with Joy
    Easy Cheesy Egg Breakfast Bake with Potatoes and Sausage by From Gate to Plate [or breakfast]
    Easy Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce by Fantastical Sharing of Recipes
    Egyptian Rice and Lentils by Wholistic Woman
    French Onion Soup Twice Baked Potato by Sew You Think You Can Cook
    Gnocchi with Fennel and Pork by Caroline’s Cooking
    Italian Baked Chicken by A Day in the Life on the Farm
    Lasagna Stuffed Acorn Squash by Cupcakes & Kale Chips
    One-Pot Creamy Chicken and Noodles by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
    Orzo with Leftover Turkey and Sweet Potatoes by Cooking Chat
    Sauteed Vegetables by Party Food and Entertaining
    Turkey Sausage and Pasta by Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
    Twice Baked Sweet Potato Bar by Momma’s Meals
    Yakisoba (Japanese Stir Fried Noodles) by Curious Cuisinere

    Don’t-break-the-bank Desserts:
    Apple Pecan Bread Pudding by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
    Marshmallow Popcorn Balls by Pies and Plots
    Slow Cooker Apple Gingerbread Crumble by The Crumby Cupcake

    And more saving suggestions from the Sunday Supper Movement:
    Budget-Friendly Meal Ideas for #SundaySupper

    Sunday Supper MovementJoin 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 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.

    Tuesday, November 10, 2015

    Simple High(er)-Fibre Baguettes #BreadBakers

    Baguettes are definitely one of the most perfect "party" breads out there. Whether they're toasted for crostini or bruschetta, sliced into ovals for smears of butter or pate, halved for "party subs" or simply left whole as an edible table centrepiece, the light inner crumb with its distinctive crust is versatile and almost universally accepted.

    Homemade baguettes proofing for #sundaysupper !Of course, the traditional baguette is a white-flour-only soiree - a welcome note for some of my family who are staunch members of the "Wonder Bread club", but unfortunately one of the least recommended foods for their diabetic or pre-diabetic diet plans. The problem is that while refined all purpose or bread flour brings a wonderful strength to the dough and helps with creating the open, slightly spongy interior or the loaves, it is essentially void of nutrition - namely fibre and B vitamins. Whole wheat flour, while delicious in its own right and much richer in nutrients, is also too dense and heavy for the ethereal nature of these French loaves.

    My solution was to incorporate some of that nutrition - at the very least, the fibre component - back into the dough in a more subtle way. I started by swapping in a touch of white whole wheat flour for the bread flour - not all of it, which would weigh the dough down, but enough for a little boost. A scoop of psyllium husks and a few tablespoons of inulin powder added extra fibre power without too much extra heft - and if anything the slight texture of the psyllium added to the rustic nature of the handmade baguettes. Three risings helped develop a deeper flavour than standard white bread too - and next time, I might even try an overnight rest to see if I can tweak it a little more. Overall, a delicious, slightly more nutritious side for the holiday (or anyday) table!

    Simple Higher-Fibre Baguettes

    Let's take a look at what my fellow bakers have baked for this month’s Family Feast Breads event:
    #BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

    If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to


    Friday, November 6, 2015

    Strawberry - Mango Jam (Toast Topper #64)

    With a distinct nip in the air, I am clamouring more than ever for the tastes of warmer climates. Nothing around here is growing anymore, save for a few over-wintering root crops, kale and a handful of apple trees, but I can still rely on the goodies I preserved all Spring and Summer long to brighten up my morning toast or my late night warm applesauce and granola (yum!).

    This jam is one such treat - made thanks to in-season strawberries frozen at their peak and the new crop of tropical mangoes and limes coming into the markets. Rather than a straight "mango" or "strawberry" jam, I tossed in a full-on combination of exotic, yet familiar flavours like coconut extract and lime. To keep the flavours pure and true to their original ingredients, I opted for a lower-sugar style of preserving which I think really did the jam justice. It's a versatile spread that will work not just for toast but also stirring into rice pudding (or kheer!), spreading between cake layers or dotting into thumbprint cookies.

    So... guess what I did today after Pilates (and the clinic)?
    The gorgeous pink jam is in front!
    Shared with Gluten Free Fridays and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday

    Sunday, November 1, 2015

    Chocolate Chip & Orange Biscotti

    Now that we're into November (and I do apologize for the total dearth of posts last month!) we are finally into the "it's okay to bake Holiday cookies" season. Namely, it's biscotti season - something I love because, as I'm always finding out, those crunchy, munchy, totally dippable cookie sticks are almost impossible to screw up! I've had a run of mediocre bakes lately (I'm looking at you, Butterscotch Apple Bread), so turning to one of my tried-and-true formulae is definitely a comfort factor.

    This year, I discovered that my mom is not alone in her adoration of the chocolate / orange combination! While I still can't get my head around the whole "fruit combo" thing, I will admit that if you are going to mix fruit with anything, chocolate would definitely be up there on my list of things to use. A while back, I reviewed Julie Hasson's 125 Best Chocolate Chip Recipes and came across a recipe for orange and chocolate chip biscotti. I was hooked - what better way to kick off the gifting season than with a surefire combination? Sadly, the recipe as written was too dry to work with, but a boost of flavour and moisture from fresh orange juice (and the requisite zest, of course), I had exactly what I was looking for - citrusy and loaded with chocolate thanks to three chocolate "textures" - mini chips, jumbo chips and chunks!

    Chocolate Chip Orange Biscotti

    Sunday, October 25, 2015

    Mango-Habanero Sauce #SundaySupper

    It's been cool and rainy enough here the past few days that I'm more than ready to cozy up to deep, steamy bowls of comfort food 24/7. Recently, I've been adding hot sauce and chili flakes to almost everything, drinking tea like it's been going out of style, and thanking Heaven that my mom had the foresight and generosity to buy me a Costco sized case of hand warmers - the likes of which have seen me through playground duty and outdoor field trips this year.

    Mango Chili Hot Sauce

    With all the hot and spicy fare I've been relishing, I decided it was nigh time to make my own hot sauce. Given that I work with a large contingent of Island women, it made sense to make a "pepper sauce" like the kind they break out at lunch, packed with the hottest peppers and a touch of exotic sweetness for good measure. Four home-grown habaneros, one Hatch chili, a mess of both white and Egyptian onions and a heady dose of garlic later, I had some hot, hot sauce canned away for Winter use and a jar for using now. In addition to the flame of the peppers, I tossed in a cup of shredded homegrown carrots and the flesh of two mangoes to temper the fire, which mellowed just enough to prevent my stomach catching on fire instantaneously. After a few days in the fridge, the sum of the parts married together so well that it formed it's own flavour base under all that nuclear pepper. A simple, plain bowl of shrimp, rice and broccoli turned into a Caribana fiesta with a spoonful stirred through it, and I can't wait to try it as a marinade too!

    So... guess what I did today after Pilates (and the clinic)?
    The hot sauce is the bright orange goodness in the back!

    This week's #SundaySupper is loving warming foods, from soups to stews, warm desserts and drinks. Our host this week is T.R. Crumbley from Gluten Free Crumbley. Thanks T.R.!



    Main Dishes and Soups

    Sunday Supper MovementJoin 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 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.