Monday, January 26, 2015

Chocolate Hazelnut Semi-Sourdough Boule

Growing up, there was never a time that our pantry went without a jar of chocolate-hazelnut spread. Whether it was brand-name Nutella, the supermarket label or a totally foreign (to us) version, the flavours of rich cocoa, buttery hazelnuts and God only knows how much added oil and sugar were never far from us kids and our wandering spoons! Those days (and I sound so old saying this), we didn't have to worry about bringing tree nuts to school - only peanut butter was verboten - so my picky sister happily subsisted off of Wonder Bread and Nutella sandwiches for years in elementary.

Chocolate Hazelnut Semi-Sourdough BouleNow, of course, more and more things are off the public menu - peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, pork and (most recently in my school) "WowButter" type spreads (granted, this last one is out of worry that the labels will fall off or be accidentally attached to a PB containing item, since the products are so similar). I've even been warned against using chocolate in my cooking classes - which is such a shame given that I preach moderation in all things, including decadent treats. I've kept a few rich goodies on my syllabus though - no fear of that!

Thankfully, out of the school lunchbox doesn't mean off the home menu. While my mom didn't grow up with Nutella, and certainly doesn't have the addiction my younger sibling did, she does enjoy the flavours of bittersweet chocolate and toasted hazelnuts. Looking to create a hearty, crusty and lightly sweet loaf to go with her weekly soup lunches, I took a slightly different tack when it came to infusing flavour throughout the whole crumb. While warming the milk for the dough, I added whole hazelnuts which steeped and softened, giving rich nutty hints to the liquid. Bittersweet chocolate and the merest touch of sourdough starter helped cut through the richness of the nuts and any sticky-sweetness in the dough (which only contained 3 tbsp of brown sugar), and the whole wheat body of the bread stayed moist and tender thanks to both the milk and a touch of soy lecithin. Originally, I wanted to do this recipe with the hazelnut milk I had spotted at the supermarket, but (of course) by the time I got around to baking day it was MIA - no doubt sold out to other hazelnut fans!

Chocolate Hazelnut Semi-Sourdough Boule

A slice of this loaf made for a perfect "end of lunch" carb, not being too sweet but decadent enough for a light dessert when topped with butter or Terry's Chocolate Marmalade. Of course, for breakfast I would totally spread on the peanut butter or cream cheese, and if I wanted a rich weeknight dessert for one I'd make a slab into French toast topped with melted Nutella and dried cherries. Oh yes - I went there!

Shared with YeastSpotting

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Toast Topper #56: Spicy Superfruit Jelly #RecipeRedux

I don't know what it is about this week, but my mind seems to be like a sieve! I totally believed that I had taken photos of this stunningly colourful, ever-so-shimmery jelly before digging in... but apparently I didn't, and because the preserve was perfect on just about everything I could think of - from cream cheese on bagels to simple crackers, melted onto roasting pork chops and even used as the base for glazed carrots - the jars just didn't last!

So, for this #RecipeRedux, I have a photo-less recipe and mere memories of the spread. An unadulterated spoonful is almost like the chewing gum in Willy Wonka's factory - it starts as a blast of tangy cranberry and pomegranate flavour, which merges into the sweeter notes of the fruit accented with a stevia-sugar blend. Just as the last hint of sugar begins to fade away, the jalapeno pops it's fiery head in to say hello, leaving a lingering finish that isn't painful so much as addictive. I can say with certainty that while the chili fans on the "tasting panel" (aka my coworkers and houseguests) would have easily polished off a jar on their own, even the non-spiceheads went for seconds, and that's saying something!

This month's Recipe Redux is all about the smoke and spice!

"The New Year is heating up with smoke and spiciness. From boldly flavored smoked salts to actual smoking techniques, subtly smoked food is on-trend. The same can be said for spice as we savor heat from harissa, sriracha and smoked paprika." 

Check out the other spicy goodies below!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Toast Topper #55: Cherry Berry Pineapple Jam

About this time during the Winter, I wake up, look out the window and want to yell "will you just be over already?". Away from the whimsy and joy of the anticipated Christmas / Hanukkah season, the January-March stretch is nothing but dreary, (at times bitter) cold and boring. Sure, there are the standard holidays to "look forward to" - Valentine's, St. Patrick's Day and Mardi Gras - but I'll really start celebrating when the temperatures are regularly above 0.

Because this part of the year is so drab, it's the perfect time for me to dig into a bright, fruity preserve that I made late last Summer when fruit was at it's peak (and cheap!). The medley began with a pile of local, organic cherries, wild blueberries and crushed pineapple, which I loosened up with a splash of pomegranate-blueberry juice. After the mixture cooked down a touch, things moved double time thanks to a pectin-infused "jam sugar" (the same kind I've used before in preserves like this). The hardest part was waiting for it to boil (doubly true if your fruit is frozen, as it likely is now) - but the second hardest thing was waiting overnight for it to fully set. That's not to say this preserve wouldn't be delicious right away (hello, vanilla ice cream topping!) but for spreading, that pectin needs to do it's job. Sigh - the things we must go through for delicious food!

Cherry Berry Pineapple Jam

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fudgy Chocolate Wafers (*not*) #CreativeCookieExchange

First off, I am freely admitting that I messed up this month with posting for the #CreativeCookieExchange event. Life has been absolutely crazy since coming back from Christmas break (wonderful, exciting and happy, but crazy!) so good chunks of my former life seem to have evaporated for the time being... including keeping up with Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Now that things are settling back into a rhythm of sorts (if you can have one with toddlers), I'll be crawling back on the ball. Promise!

Anyways, since I did have a post primed for this month's  #CreativeCookieExchange theme (Make Someone’s Day Cookies), I couldn't hold it back. These thin, crispy-chewy, chocolate and coconut treats have become a favourite of one of my co-workers, and like my Sunny Apple Muffins every time they make an appearance in the staff room you can see her grin from across the building. Ironically, I almost threw the recipe out after making them the first time - they didn't look much like the photo on Cooking Light's page at all, even though my changes were relatively minor (using flavourful Gold Label coconut oil in place of the butter, coconut milk yoghurt and whole what pastry flour). Spread thin and flat, I was embarrassed to put them in Christmas baskets so I brought them to the staff room, where treats (regardless of their outward appearance) always seem to be appreciated. 

Fudgy Chocolate Wafers

After the reviews came in, though, I gave another batch a try, but had to stash it overnight in the fridge before baking it off. Lo and behold, I found myself with chewy, thick, still flavourful cookies that retained just the slightest bit of crispy-crunch on the edges. Packed perfectly into their tins, they were prettier than their predecessors but apparently tasted much the same. Lesson learned: chilling time = control over texture = more happy people!

Here's some more info on the #CreativeCookieExchange:

The theme this month is Make Someone’s Day Cookies! We chose someone in our lives that we loved and baked them cookies that they love! Maybe you will feel inspired to bake someone that you love a cookie! 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:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Chocolate - Orange Sesame Truffles

One of the few things I like about winter is the availability of different citrus fruit in the markets. Until the cold weather hits, our grocery stores are devoid of some of my favourite ingredients - key limes, Meyer lemons and blood oranges! When I recently spotted the blushing, garnet-centred fruit in the produce aisle, I grabbed up a bag and knew I had to celebrate their decadent, exotic sweetness with a recipe too!

I found my winner in the book Vegan Chocolate by Fran Costigan, and with a few simple alterations I had a rich, ever-so-slightly healthy (!) semi-ganache ready to roll and coat sitting in my fridge. Using tahini gave the chocolate a slight toasted nuttiness that I didn't expect, but fell in love with after I tasted the warm, then chilled, ganache. To make them look as good as they tasted, I crusted the balls with a yin-yang of sesame seeds. In all, they're a stunningly beautiful combination of taste and appearance (just like my blood oranges), and with no refined sugar, no cream and no butter they're more than worth indulging in!

Chocolate - Orange Sesame Truffles

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunny Apple Muffins

It's Winter, and officially bleak and blah outside. I just came off my first week of full-time teaching, which while exhilarating and everything I could have hoped for in a job, is also exhausting. I have been out of the 40-hour-a-week workforce for years, and until my body readjusts I'll just have to run on adrenaline and coffee.

Oh, and muffins.

Sunny Apple Muffins

Yes, while not the most nutrient-dense of foods, a homemade muffin with the mid-day coffee sure perks up the spirit, especially during the Winter, when not too much by way of bright, fresh fruit is around. They're one of the easiest things to customize, too, being the type of food that is a bland enough base to add almost anything to, and a sturdy enough formula to handle many an ingredient substitution. I (and a few of my co-teachers) have become major fans of these muffins in particular - filled with chunks of apple, crunchy-sweet sunflower seeds and rich butter, they also get a slight bit of added texture from crushed arrowroot cookies and a wealth of flavour from sunflower "milk" and nutty whole wheat.

I originally was able to find the sunflower milk I used at the health food store near me in Tetra-Paks, but I've since heard the product was discontinued. If you can find it, it's worth the hunt for a recipe like this or a rustic bread where the nutty flavour will be highlighted - if not, you can either make your own or use your favourite "milky" beverage (flavour-wise, I'd suggest either flax or hemp), or just use regular ol' dairy. Like I said, muffins are vehicles for variation!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Toast Topper #54: Terry's Chocolate Marmalade

Chocolate is one of the most universal foods out there. It's hard to think of something that completely clashes with every cocoa product, and when it comes to bittersweet or unsweetened solid bars or pure cocoa powder, both sweet and savoury possibilities open up in a variety of flavour profiles. Of course, one of chocolate's all-time perfect pairings is fruit. Combined with the fresh, bright flavours of sub-acid to citrus fruits, the sweetness and richness of the cacao bean and sugar combination lighten, creating an enjoyable, sophisticated melange in the mouth.

Chocolate companies have been capitalizing on the fruit-cocoa combination for years, and the products of their creativity come out full force during the holidays. After seeing walls and walls of "chocolate + (name your fruit)" bars and bonbons over the Christmas season, I got the inspiration to try my hand at making a breakfast-friendly spread with the nuances of the famous chocolate-orange candy my mom absolutely adores. By using my favourite, no-sugar-needed pectin, I kept the tang and bitter edge of the pure base ingredients, adding just enough sugar to offset the bite of the citrus membrane in the body of the marmalade. Far from being a sickly-sweet candy box confection, the finished mixture is more of a bittersweet, "grown up" treat with faint hints of the holiday stocking-stuffers. If you're a fan of the chocolate oranges, try a smear of this on toast for a change - just don't try to whack it on the floor!

Chocolate - Orange Marmalade

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Easy to be Green Chocolate Chip Cookies #SundaySupper

Like I alluded to yesterday, I don't believe in "good" and "bad" foods, detox diets or "quick fixes" for this life we all have. I value flavour and nutrition in tandem - and while it sounds impossible some times, I tell you it's a delicious learning curve! How else would we have discovered the decadence of
Nutella Stuffed Black Bean and Banana Cookies, Very Red Velvet Brownies or these Fudge Brownies?

Today for #SundaySupper, I decided to make one of the staffer's favourite cookies. Not only are they deliciously rich, moist and chewy, but they have no oil or butter in the dough. Instead, the creaminess of a ripe, buttery avocado adds all the good fat you'd want, without any off-putting flavours at all. If anything, the avocado lends an almost "browned butter" type of nuttiness that's only improved upon with the whole grain flours! For extra "oomph", I tossed in a scoop of protein powder (left over from my stepbrother's pre-wedding training kick last year), and kept the sugar down with xylitol.

Easy (to be Green) Chocolate Chip Cookies

While I wouldn't say they're "health food", I will say they're mighty tasty - and perhaps slightly better for you than the storebought Mr. ________ or Mrs. _________.

Lets see what other healthier options are on the menu tonight!

Bright Beverages

Blissful Breakfast Items

Appetizing Starters

Savoury Soups and Sides

Marvelous Mains

Delightful Desserts
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, January 3, 2015

Beet and Carrot Soup

One thing that stays constant every January is the sudden upswing of people in the gym, health food store and diet centres. Some of them are truly looking to make a change - taking care to understand the "whys" behind the "hows" and implementing changes slowly. Others, though, are so hard-wired to look for an "instant fix" that they scour the earth for magic bullets and detoxes. You usually find out by February 1 which camp people are in.

I hate to say it as a nutritionist, but I used to be in the second group - I truly hated the gym, loved my junk food and was constantly on the look for fat-burners, cleanses and whatever else I thought would help my cause. By the third week of January, I was buying candy on the way home from school, finding excuses to skip the gym and was frustrated that all those pills did nothing to get me to a size 6. Over time, though, I wound up doing a total 180 - I'm a huge vegetable freak now (while my favourite food is still dark chocolate), hate missing the gym classes I take (but I admit I still won't go for just the machines) and prefer to get my physical and emotional nutrition from things that taste good that I can make from scratch, not pop a pill for.

Beet and Carrot Soup

While many people look at the use of beets, garlic and citrus in this light lunch as "detox foods", I argue that the whole dish is cleansing. Not only are the ingredients wholesome and fresh, but getting into the habit of cooking and eating better is a type of mental clear-out as well. The fact that a bowl of this is delicious and warming as well as good-for-you should put you on the track towards eliminating any guilt from the holidays - what's done is done. Make your next step a forwards one.
Finally, in Jewish theology, beets are known as “silka,” meaning removal. Eating beets is supposed to clear any spiritual roadblocks from last year's mistakes, ensuring a prosperous New Year ahead.

But more than anything, it's a perfect Winter-friendly lunch from the kitchen that freezes and packs well, and with a hunk of crusty bread will keep you satisfied until dinner!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Friday, January 2, 2015

Lentil - Laced Carrot Cake

I love discovering other cultural traditions through food. Take the coming of the New Year, for example - there are hosts of "good luck" and "fruitful future" foods and recipes out there! Obviously, some of them are relatively well-known - black eyed peas, lentils, and greens - but I discovered recently that grapes, pork and fish are traditional New Year's foods too, and when you look at other (non-Western calendar) New Year's traditions you'll find honey, oats, carrots,beets, candy, pancakes and doughnuts too!

In celebration of all things lucky and New Year's-y, I wanted to share (yet another) carrot cake with everyone. I packed it as full of good-fortune foods as I could - lentils and carrots for "money", grains and seeds for fertility and fruitfulness and a hint of sugar for a sweet future. The roundness of the cake also has the meaning of "infinity", boding well for the next 365 days! As an added bonus, the cake is relatively nutritious as well, being made with legumes, whole grains, less sugar and of course the vegetables! If you need an excuse to bust out a cake even after the December glut, you can take heart that this recipe is also nut-free and vegan, with no need for frosting! 

Lentil - Spelt Carrot Cake

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Candied Pumpkin Cake

Happy New Year, everyone!

2015 for me began quietly at home, hanging out with my sis, the cats and the rats (yes, I said rats. They're adorable!). Apart from a one hour TV special, nothing overly unique conspired, since over the holidays we both somehow transform into night owls anyway so after-midnight bedtimes aren't really all that unique! However, I for one love nights like that, because there's no circumstance or fancy-pants airs to get in the way of simply spending time with others.

Like my holiday "un-parties", the cake I made as a "farewell to the holiday gluttony" treat is unassuming on the surface, but once you break into the plain, golden crumb there's no denying a glimmer of something special. Finally taking a break from chocolate on chocolate on chocolate (although, really, why?), I looked to my stash of Turkish Spice-Candied Pumpkin with it's rich spices and complex sweetness for a flavourful body. The light-textured, whole grain crumb took on slightly nutty notes thanks to sprouted Kamut flour, ground pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil - ingredients that also added to the "nutrition" factor of the confection (it is the season for resolutions after all - although my resolution every year is to not make resolutions!).

Candied Pumpkin Cake

Obviously this recipe came about with previously made Turkish Spice-Candied Pumpkin in mind. However, if you don't get a chance to make that first (although I do recommend it!), peeled and diced peaches, persimmons or mango would suffice for the pieces of pumpkin, while honey mixed with ¼ tsp vanilla, ¼ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp allspice and a pinch each of cardamom, ground ginger and ground cloves would do nicely. The spices go perfectly with a strong cup of coffee, and while it isn't what I would call intensely sweet, it is rich enough to slake that 3PM craving!

Candied Pumpkin Cake

What was your favourite part of New Year's Eve? Did you party? Keep it quiet? Or sleep through the countdowns? Did you make a resolution? Tell me in the comments below!