Sunday, February 22, 2015

Caramel-Almond Latte Ricotta Cookies - Red Carpet #SundaySupper

Thinking about today's #SundaySupper theme (Red Carpet Recipes), I immediately had visions of a rolled or coiled treat as a perfect dessert. To me, the "unrolling of the carpet" imagery is the perfect basis for a fancy dish, not to mention that cookies are infinitely easier to grab (and munch on) during the broadcast than a fancy, multi-tiered dessert!

That said, just like those layered upon layered gowns and updos that fill Hollywood on gala nights like tonight, these cookies are deceivingly complex - the dough itself (essentially a copycat of this one) gets hints of tang and tenderness from homemade ricotta, plus a crunchy, bittersweet note from powdered Coffee Bean Brittle. The filling is homemade caramel sauce, smooth almond butter and toasted almonds, making for a decadently rich experience that's a hit with any fancy coffee drinker, or simply any cookie aficionado!

Caramel-Almond Latte Ricotta Cookies

Nominees for Best Supporting Appetizers:

Nominees for Best Course in a Leading Role:

Nominees for Best Supporting Sips:

Nominees for Best Delectable Desserts:

Nominees for Best Dressed Table:

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.

Teff Brownies with Grand Marnier Bonbons #RecipeRedux

I'll let you in on a little secret - I hate the combination of fruit with pretty much any other flavour out there. With the exception of lemon juice (which I adore in almost everything) and pineapple on pizza (and only pizza, with requisite hot pepper flakes and crushed garlic), fruit belongs on it's own, unadulterated plane of existence in my eyes.

My mom, on the other hand, can't get enough of fruit in things. She's not a fan of fruit on it's own, but add it to anything from a roast to a stir fry to a cookie and she's in like a dirty shirt. In particular, orange and chocolate desserts are her personal addiction, which explains treats like Chocolate - Orange Sesame Truffles, Terry's Chocolate Marmalade and "Terry's Chocolate" Brownies popping up on this blog.

So, is there a more decadent way of marrying chocolate and orange than with a boozy liqueur? Maybe - it you do what I did and top the batch with liquor-filled chocolates! Even with the extra sweetness, though, one of these rich little bars isn't simply empty calories - teff and sorghum flours add a punch of gluten free, whole grain goodness, while the cocoa powder has a burst of antioxidants too. Health food? No... but healthier treat? You bet!

Teff Brownies with Grand Marnier Bonbons

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cinnamon Raisin Blondies #CreativeCookieExchange

I've been a longtime fan of blondies - after all, who can hate the rich taste of a brown-sugar, essentially chocolate chip cookie dough in a neat little square? While the "original" plain-Jane base is a work of art in itself, it's also ripe for customization depending on your tastes. Two of my all-time favourite recipes, for example, contain marshmallowy goodness that creates dense and fudgy bars, while Gluten-Free Quinoa Blondies appeal to the "health food" lovers amongst my friends and family and Genius Chocolate-Chip Blondies are a sleeper hit with the kids. Combining two types of cookie in a blondie-esque bar never occurred to me, though - until I spotted recipes like these floating around the blog-o-sphere. 

Cinnamon Raisin Blondies

Ironically, I've never been one to crave snickerdoodles, but somehow fell in love with the idea of cinnamon bars. However, for me if there's cinnamon there needs to be raisins, and a richly flavoured base as well to enhance it's natural sweet and spiciness. Taking a cue from my previous blonde goodies and a basic recipe from Inspired Taste, I dialed up the batter with nutty, almost butterscotchy maca powder and chickpea flour, then packed in some raisins along with a glug of Goldschläger for good measure. They are definitely my preferred version of the classic cookie!

The theme for this month's #CreativeCookieExchange is Drunken Cookies! Cookies made with booze and/or inspired by booze, we have them all! 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 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:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Healthy Hearty Granola Bites

I'm always honoured when friends of mine in the health and fitness industry ask me to ply my cooking talents for a cause. I love helping out in any way I can, especially when the beneficiaries are children (it's the teacher in me). For years, I made cakes for Autism Ontario's annual dessert auction, and loved that my few hours in the kitchen contributed to the furthering of their research and support. Now, I am super excited to be a part of another fundraiser, this time for Plan Canada's Because I Am A Girl initiative, whose mission is to "help give girls in developing countries around the world, a chance at a brighter future."

This time around, the event is a Zumba- and Socasize-athon hosted by two of my friends (and Zumba instructors) Dawna Mensah and Sharon Service called Rise Up and Shine. Now, I'm a Zumba freak (friends and family will attest to that) and of course, I love to cook, so not only am I donating the yumminess you'll see below (along with another treat!), but I'm throwing one of my cookbooks on CD and a voucher for a free nutritional consultation into their raffle prize list too! (Side note - if you can't attend RUaS, you can still donate here or by contacting Dawna).

Obviously, since this is a fitness event, I knew whatever treats I made would have to be healthy, as well as a good source of energy, good fats and whole grains to keep the dancers groovin'! Granola bars were an obvious choice, but they can be messy - and often too much to eat for a between-song pick me up. My solution was to turn the "bars" into "bites" - dense, chewy squares of fruit, cereal and seeds perfect for on-the-go. With an arsenal of organic and granola at my disposal, I took inspiration from Oh She Glows and ran with it, creating something truly unique and perfect for my purposes. These bars are vegan and nut free, but because of the granola I used I can't claim its wheat or gluten free due to risk of cross contamination (obviously a changeable factor!). I found the combination of figs, banana and sunflower seed butter to be a perfect flavour pairing for the pumpkin and flax seeds, adding light but present sweetness and nutty notes that would otherwise be missing in a nut-free bar. I can't wait for the event to give them (another) taste!

Healthy Hearty Granola Bites

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Stovetop Fruit & Honey Granola #SundaySupper

I love granola. Not only is it one of the most versatile cereals to use - finding homes in cookies, cakes, crumbles and ice cream (amongst other things), but it's one of the easiest to make and modify breakfast and snack foods around. I regularly whip up batches of granola in my oven - never the same flavour twice, but always slowly baked till crisp, chunky and decadently healthy. Generally, I keep the amount of added fat and sugar low, in contrast to most store-bought blends which can be swimming in white granules and oil in place of flavour-packed, whole food ingredients.

So, when the time came to introduce my grade 1-3 classes to the wonderful treat that is homemade granola, I kept the premise the same. Together, we concocted a hearty, healthy and crunchy breakfast cereal that was delicious enough to eat straight from the bowl with a spoon while being full of good-for-you ingredients, from thick rolled oats and oat bran to blood-sugar controlling cinnamon, calcium-rich tahini and sesame seed, B-vitamin stacked sunflower seeds and home-dried apple rings. Without an oven (or the time to slow-bake our mixture), I turned the recipe into a stovetop creation - making it not only a lickety split move from mixing bowl to cereal bowl, but one you can enjoy warm over ice cream (granted, it won't be as crunchy right out of the pan). Leftovers (if there are any) last a good long while in the freezer too - and I won't judge if they "fall into" a pint of vanilla fro-yo while they're in there.

Stovetop Fruit & Honey Granola

For #SundaySupper this week, we're compiling all the healthiest recipes we can concoct in celebration of Heart Health Month. From healthy cereals like this one to nutritious and hearty mains, and even a few sweet treats, there's something for everyone!

Better for you breakfasts:

Jump start your health with these appetizers and snacks:

Soups that’ll win your heart:

Veggies, Sides, & Salads your heart will thank you for:

Healthy is the centre of attention in these main courses:

Staying healthy doesn’t mean giving up desserts!

We heart wine.

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.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

"The Beet Goes On" Cookies

While I don't ascribe to the huge spend-money-on-gifts shindig that is the commercialized holiday, being that it is Valentine's Day I figured I would share a somewhat festive treat. The difference between this one and your typical gift-wrapped sweets is two-fold: first, chocolate (or any cocoa product) is completely absent from the ingredient list and second, these are essentially health bombs in the guise of sugar-dusted, chewy, rich-tasting, heart shaped red velvet cookies.

The "Beet" Goes On Cookies

Not only are these babies made with partial whole grain flour and heart-healthy sunflower seed butter, but they're low in added sugar too - the bulk of the sweet and earthy flavour comes from the not-so-secret beet puree, which also colours and tenderizes the dough. Completely vegan, these lack any cholesterol and are substantial enough to serve as the "bread" in a frozen yoghurt "sandwich", yet soft and cakey enough for even the tenderest mouths to chew through easily. What better treat for a day of love than one everyone can share - young, old, vegan, omnivore, sweet-aholics and savoury fans alike?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Foul Weather Fowl Soup

Well, it's official - I'm sick. Again. Because it's Winter, and that's what happens. I'm giving my school kids a pass on this one, since this time around I managed to avoid the flu - trading it for an ear, sinus and chest infection rolled into one!

I know I always appreciate having a prepared, go-to meal in my back pocket, whether it's because I'm sick or because I'm just too worn out to cook during the week. Luckily, I didn't even have  to think about making this during the week, because I had a few small armies of children help me make it in class a few weeks ago! This simple, hearty and vegetable-laden soup was a great frugal recipe for us to make, especially given that the weather was reaching down into the -20°Cs then and the weather in general was downright frightful! To keep costs low, I used up leftover Christmas turkey meat and some homemade broth, but even with storebought ingredients it doesn't break the bank! It was also easy enough for the kids to make (with supervision), they did all the chopping, measuring and tasting!

My home ec class' "Foul Weather Fowl Soup" #proud #teacher #montessori

Soup is the perfect choice for when you're laid up at home, since even if you're making a batch from scratch while sniffling and coughing, it's easy work and the smell is just as therapeutic as the taste - even more so if your tastebuds are on vacation too! I'm also one of those people who just can't remind themselves to drink fluids (other than tea) if bumming around the house, so a bowl of soup - while not as ideal as pure water - can help keep those levels up. In fact, if you (or your loved ones) are off with the stomach flu, homemade soup is great, thanks to the sodium and potassium in the broth!

No matter why you make it, there's no denying a bowl of this is 100% comfort food that hugs you from the inside! Just ask my sous-chefs :-).

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Chocolate - Covered Strawberry Jam (Toast Topper #57)

If the attendance at my gym is any indication, it's safe to say that with the end of January came the end of most people's resolution determination. February is definitely the season for chocolate everything - from (relatively healthy) cherries and strawberries to bacon, potato chips and Oreos. If you're a fan of chocolate, Valentine's Day is the perfect excuse to incorporate the confection into every meal of the day - why not have a rich bowl of mole poblano bowl at lunch, cocoa rubbed steak for dinner and a molten chocolate cake for dessert? Chocolate is definitely one of those ingredients that fits neatly into both the sweet and savoury kingdom, and hey, it can be healthy too!

The meal chocolate almost always manages to convert into dessert is breakfast. Given that most of our morning meals in the Western world are already on the sweeter side of things (I'm talking to you, breakfast food aisle), the addition of sweet chocolate often just ratchets up the saccharine notes. Think about it - chocolate chip pancakes and waffles, Nutella crepes and muffins are essentially staples on every diner menu, and even Cheerios and oatmeal are being given the cocoa (and sugar) kiss. While nobody is claiming they're the best way to start the day, they are arguably some of the most decadent ways! Now, I love my chocolate and sugar as much as the next girl, but I'd rather not blow up to 1200 calories in a single meal. Instead, I hearkened back to the original chocolate delight - the enrobed strawberry - and created this simple confiture to spread on seedy whole grain bread! The secret to making this jam taste downright sinful next to it's peers on the shelf is the best quality chocolate you can find - I went for Callebaut's bittersweet couverture chocolate callets - and adding a scoop of cacao nibs to cut the sweetness inherent in a pectin-free spread. Thick, but not "jellied", it nicely falls into the crevices of an artisan loaf or English muffin, but I wouldn't hesitate to smear it on whatever I had handy!

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Jam

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Chinese New Year Recipes with @SanJTamari

I never used to like soy sauce on or with anything. Rice remained snow white on my plate, sushi went un-dipped, and the take-out packets began piling up in the pantry after a dinner in. In some respects, my leeriness of the ingredient remains - I'm not a fan of it "uncooked", for example - my rice and sushi stay plain (unless it's fried rice, of course), but I love marinated tofu (and originally, flank steak), yakitori and all kinds of saucy noodle stir fries.

For those dishes (and anything else with soy sauce as an ingredient) I love using tamari, since it has a richer, "purer" flavour unadulterated by the wheat usually present in common soy sauces. I've written before about San-J brand tamari and how it is my go-to variety - not only because it is delicious, but the smoothest and most versatile formula I've tasted (it's also non-GMO, vegan, gluten free, kosher and made without artificial preservatives or additives). For Chinese New Year (which begins on February 19), the company is sharing three new recipes from Gluten-Free Chef Carol Kicinski.
While two of them are on the savoury side of the menu (as would be expected from the salty brewed sauce), Kicinski created a sweet cookie too!

First up is a dish perfect for welcoming the Year of the Sheep - Lamb Potstickers! These delicate pastry parcels are stuffed with rich, flavourful lamb married with spicy ginger, tamari and sherry and accompanied by a flavourful tamari dipping sauce. Here's the recipe.


Then we have the gorgeous, vibrant and exotic Prosperous New Year Stir Fry. This vegetarian medley of marinated tofu, onion and garlic is given a tangy-sweet pop with pomegranate seeds and a fresh tang from yoghurt. I veganized my dish, leaving off the yoghurt in favour of a squeeze of lime juice, and it was absolutely divine as well! You can find all the details of the recipe here.


The most unusual use of tamari from Ms. Kicinski is with her Good Fortune Cookies. If you are a fan of French almond macarons, these whipped egg white and almond clouds are crowned with a whole almond and filled with an ever so slightly savoury chocolate-tamari ganache. Like the other dessert recipe on San-J's website (Cherry Chocolate Cake) this is a gluten free treat I can't wait to try out in my own kitchen (once I have a few spare moments!). For now, I'll share their recipe with my projected substitutions, and will let you know how it goes!


Sunday, February 1, 2015

West Indian - Style Sweet Potato Bun

One of the coolest things about living and working in Canada, especially so close to a metropolis like Toronto, is the total multiculturalism we're exposed to every day.  Going to work fills my weeks with essentially a World's fair of experiences, from the festival celebrations for every religion I can think of to the international array of staff, students and guests filling the buildings. Our multiculturalism is reflected in the school menus too - finding corned beef and cabbage, quiche, Jamaican-style patties and Spanish-style rice pilaf as regular features amongst the more "American" chicken noodle soup and macaroni and cheese.

One of the more common (albeit hit-and-miss acceptance wise) snacks on the school menu is "spice bun" - a dense, hearty, spicy and sweet bread filled with raisins and/or candied fruit. Whether made in a "quick" (baking powder) style or with yeast, it's definitely not lacking in flavour or texture, and depending on the recipe added liquor lends an "adults only" fruitcake-like note to the finished good. Traditionally, spice bun is sliced thickly and served with Cheddar cheese at Easter and Christmas in the Caribbean, but here it's available year round at West Indian groceries. Rather than slices of Cheddar, at school we add either a smear of butter or cream cheese to our slices to tone down any extra spiciness the children might find offensive.

West Indian - Style Sweet Potato Bun

That said, the adults who manage to commandeer any leftovers are a different story! I made one of my co-workers a loaf of her own a few weeks back, made moist with pureed sweet potato, molasses and coconut oil, peppered with coconut, raisins and candied fruit and laced with allspice. The vegan loaf also got an unexpected lift and additional spicy-sweet note from ginger ale, making the finished product the perfect addition to a coffee break when escaping from the cold, blustery weather!