Sunday, April 26, 2015

Pumpkin - Coconut Biscotti #SundaySupper

As someone who doesn't particularly care for it, it's rather ironic that I've become my family's "queen of biscotti". Logistically, biscotti are the best type of cookies to make if you're planning on gifting or storing them - being deliberately dried out, it's tough to peg a batch as "stale", and most of them are hardy enough to travel without much coddling against breakage. Of course, the relatively simple flavour profile of the basic biscotti recipe is perfect for creating variations, and each foray into the world of twice-baked cookies opens up the world of "kitchen sink" cookie possibilities. Over the years I've made a slew of different batches, never the same twice, always keeping in mind the contents of my pantry, fridge and freezer.

For this week's #SundaySupper, I turned to my freezer's stash of home-roasted pumpkin puree and shredded coconut to concoct a tropically infused coffee break treat. While pumpkins are not technically a tropical item, they do pair beautifully with coconut and warming spices and always make me think of Jamaica or the Caribbean. Vegan and laced with a hint of nutty spelt flour, the  spice island elements of these crunchy cookies are make them perfect for whatever snack break you have coming up - whether you choose a zippy ginger tea, Jamaican roast coffee, coconut rum-spiked cocoa or something else entirely!

Here's what the rest of the gang have cooked up this week:

Tidbits and Pupus



Condiments and Sauces


Main Event

Delectable Delights

Tropical Foods Sunday Supper

Wine Pairings
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.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cranberry-Orange Bulgur Bread (#RecipeRedux)

If you're to go through my kitchen and baker's arsenal, the sheer amount of random ingredients (in random amounts) would likely shock and amaze you. I normally pride myself on being relatively comprehensive in my use of things - i.e. I don't buy what I don't need - but due to buying in bulk most of the time I wind up with odds and ends of ingredients that never seem to add up to much.

Eventually, though, all those odds and ends get to be just too much and it comes time for a purge. When it's a more "savoury" ingredient like legumes or grains, a pot of soup can eat up the majority of them in quick order. Bread is almost never left behind in this household, but turns into stuffing cubes for the next roast turkey dinner, while bones and veggie scraps turn into containers of stock. When it comes to the sweeter things though, or the "middle ground" items that can go either way, coming up with an adequate use for all of them within as few recipes as possible becomes a bit more challenging. The last "pantry purge" of mine landed me with bulgur, orange juice and Craisins - all suitable for a breakfast hot cereal or dinner pilaf, but since nobody here was in the mood for those I reverted to my fallback - a loaf of bread.

I think of bread as the "catch all" of the baking pantry. It's hard to think of something that can't fit one way or another into a loaf of yeasted goodness, and these ingredients were (in the grand scheme of things) fairly easy to incorporate. The resulting loaf has just enough grainy texture and fruity flavour to play nicely with the pops of dried fruit, and makes excellent French toast as well as a great accompaniment to spicy soup or grilled chicken.

Cranberry-Orange Bulgur Bread

This month our #RecipeRedux group is raiding the pantry, cupboards, freezer, and fridge for the hidden or forgotten treasures we bury. What ‘treasures’ have you found recently in your home, and what do you do with them? Let me know in the comments and be sure to check out all the treats below!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sourdough Chunk Cookies #SundaySupper Picnic!

Happy Sunday! I'm personally astonished that it's almost the end of April now... where has the time gone? All of a sudden the snow has melted away and even a good portion of the mud "ponds" have dried up into mere puddles, and when the forecast calls for precipitation it's no longer centimetres of "white stuff" but millimetres of rain. Married with the beginnings of new grass growth in the backyard, this year's crop of tomato seedlings starting to sprout indoors and small bouquets of cut daffodils for Cancer Awareness available in the stores, there's no doubt in my mind that it is, finally, Spring.

One of the major Spring projects my community, as well as my family, takes part in is an outdoor clean-up for Earth Day. It's a time for us to pick up and properly discard all the littler that had been hidden underneath the snow over the winter so that any toxins won't poison the soil and water supply. Depending on the day and who runs the city's version of the event, an eco-friendly lunch follows which always sends people home just that little bit more aware of their ecological impact. I've always been one to try and reduce waste in the kitchen, more out of a desire to save money than anything else, so the idea of making a pack-along dessert for on-the-go noshing that required no extra shopping on my part was right up my alley. I have been nursing a sourdough starter for many years now, and always have sourdough toss-off on my hands. I do my best to use it in whatever I can, from a supplement in bread to an ingredient in hot cross buns, crumpets and even brownies, but I'll admit I still wind up tossing more than my fair share into the compost bin.

Sourdough Chunk Cookies

Then, I found the perfect solution - cookies that allowed me to use up my excess sourdough quickly (no "1/4 cup" amounts here) and stock my freezer with "bake-on-demand" treats for whenever the moment strikes! The rye-based starter I use guarantees the baked cookies are tender, with a delicate but definite "tang" that works perfectly with almost any addition you can think of - I compiled a host of leftover Valentine's Day and Easter dark chocolate from this year's gift stash and bulked up the rest of the batter with the last of a bag of Love Crunch® Dark Chocolate & Red Berries, which I had received for review in December. Everything else was pantry- and fridge-raided too, and the whole compilation was so successful that I wound up making a second batch to use up all the tiny boxes of Valentine's Day Smarties I had been given and taking it into school for bake sale.

This week at #SundaySupper we're celebrating a two-fer of special days. April 22nd is Earth Day and April 23rd is National Picnic Day - perfectly inter-laceable themes with an eye towards appreciating  our planet. In homage to the theme, our group (led by by T.R. of Gluten Free Crumbley) is sharing recipes perfect for picnicking or otherwise enjoying in the great outdoors.



Main Dishes:


Soups and Salads:


Sunday Supper Movement

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

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

Friday, April 17, 2015

(Very) Vanilla Persimmon Jam: Toast Topper #59

If you absolutely had to choose, which flavour would you cut out from your life forever - chocolate, or vanilla?

I'm solidly in the chocoholic club, and while I'd miss the rich, floral notes of vanilla bean in unadorned ice cream, pudding and cake, it's so often a background nuance that I never really take time to consider it on its own. That said, most of the men in my life (Dad especially) are vanilla lovers through and through. You will never see a chocolate cake at their birthday party (unless someone brings a second cake), and if they, for some reason, have to choose a piece of chocolate they go straight for the white stuff. Which is fine, really - the more Amedei Chuao for me the better!

Since I made the frosting for my mom's birthday cake (a riff on Super Vanilla Frosting, where I added vanilla custard powder for more oomph) I've been trying to give vanilla a bit more mind in the kitchen. My taste project was aided further by my grandmother, who upon returning from the Dominican Republic, gave me two vials of vanilla extract from there. They smelled absolutely unlike any other vanilla I've used - sweet and almost fruity, with a delicate tropical note I can't quite place. I don't think they're true vanilla extract, judging by the research I've done, but taste and useability wise it's about on par with the bottle of Mexican stuff that I bought (still short of my favourite Tahitian, though), and lends itself well to fruit-based applications as well as things where it's baked (unlike frostings, ice creams, etc).

When I found myself with some extra vanilla persimmons kicking around, I decided to give making jam with a "vanilla" theme it a shot to see if I could marry dessert flavours with the idea of a breakfast spread. I wanted to keep everything relatively low-sugar, so the amount I did put in needed to be flavourful - in this case, obviously, vanilla sugar. The sticky, meltingly soft persimmons went in next, along with the seeds from half a vanilla bean and the extract. The buttery spread goes on smooth and luxurious, perfect as is or offset with a salty peanut butter on toast. In short, think the vanilla equivalent of Nutella... i.e. irresistible!

Vanilla Persimmon Jam


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Low n' Slow Baked Asian Pears

One of the best things about biting into an Asian pear is their crunchy, almost explosively juicy nature. They're totally unassuming on the surface, unlike peaches which - when perfectly ripe - demand you be over the sink or outside to break into. No, Asian pears are for all intents and purposes an apple to the outsider, but once their thin skin is punctured those napkins or faucet best be nearby for the deluge of sweet nectar hiding inside.

I wondered, then, if I could take advantage of both the aspects packing this favourite fruit of mine and transform it into a dish that was the best of both. I had been hoarding a Dorie Greenspan recipe in my bookmarks folder for what seems like ages, and since I had these very appley pears in my possession I thought this would be the perfect time to try it out! 

Low n' Slow Baked Asian Pears

What I loved was that the whole thing is nothing more than fruit, sugar, spices, and a touch of butter. In my case, I used wafer-thin slices of Asian pears, a slightly exotic-smelling spice mixture, vanilla sugar and fruity, cold-pressed coconut oil. Then, like how Mother Nature makes diamonds, time, pressure and heat work their magic little by little until out comes this wonderfully silky, comforting, melt-in-your-mouth creation that you can't help but want to dig right into. The original recipe used ramekins, but since mine are in storage in the loft in the basement somewhere unknown to me at this moment I substituted a 6" square glass dish weighed with a small cast iron skillet. 

Low n' Slow Baked Asian PearsWhen I say you want to eat it with everything, you truly do - my family dug into this with vanilla and caramel gelato, plain Greek yogurt, morning oatmeal, pancakes, and simply au natural. In fact, my mom was looking at serving this alongside a pork roast for dinner, but then someone - ahem - ate the last of it as a midday snack.

Shared with Waste Not Want Not Wednesday and Gluten-Free Wednesdays

Monday, April 13, 2015

Moroccan Chicken and Saffron Soup

I was really hoping to make it through the rest of the school year without getting sick, but life definitely has other plans! Luckily, we're big soup eaters here, and a bowl of broth is never too far away, ready to be jazzed up with whatever my stomach can handle at the time (which, at the moment, is plain brown rice and maybe a diced carrot or two). Over the Winter, my mom ate a lot of hearty soups herself, and she still attributes her ability to avoid the bulk of the flu season to her daily bowls of comfort. It's easy to see why - they're always homemade, packed with veggies, lean proteins and healthy spices that fend off even the most stubborn colds.

Moroccan Chicken and Saffron Soup

Take, for example, this gorgeous and exotic concoction. Iron and protein packed chicken thighs, chickpeas and veggies toting fibre and vitamins and comforting pearls of whole grain couscous are just the headliners in the pot, backed up by an exotic array of spices including the elusive, expensive saffron. It smells like absolute Heaven while simmering, which would be reason enough to cook up a pot every few weeks if those darn crocus stamens weren't so pricey these days (and those darn squirrels would stop eating my calendula - a passable substitute - every year).                 

Whether you're beginning your foray into Moroccan food (and really, you know my love for all things Moroccan!) or you're needing one of those mid-day "pick-me-up" meals at work, this soup is perfect. Filling, flavourful, with that little "something extra" that keeps you coming back for more, it's a delicious "bridge food" for the seasons too!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Toast Topper #58: Peach-Mango Jam

Even though the warmer weather is starting to arrive around here, it's no secret that Summer is still a long way off. In a way, that's a blessing - I've only just started my heirloom tomatoes (and haven't touched my squash seeds yet), plus the fact that June is still a little ways off means I have a little bit of breathing room before the year-end school presentations begin! The warmer weather also means the seemingly endless amounts of ice and snow are starting to dwindle (yay!), being replaced by dreary, grey rain (boo!). According to Mr. Weatherman, around here we're destined for a full 24 hours of the wet stuff - meaning a lot of grumpy kids stuck inside and a host of grumpy adults with pressure headaches!

Peach-Mango Jam

Until the bright sunshine sees fit to come out and play again,at least I still have a few jars of Summer goodness tucked away in my pantry that I can enjoy all year! Last Summer was perfect for peaches in my area, so taking advantage of their super-affordable price at the farmer's market I bought a few extra baskets, making jam immediately with some of them and freezing the rest (peeled and sliced) for later. We also had a bumper crop of mangoes in the grocery stores mid-July for some reason, which was inspiration enough for me to cherry-pick the Mango Jam recipe out of the Best of Bridge Home Preserving book and give it my own, Ontario twist. Rather than simply mango pieces with sugar and pectin, I opted for a chunky mash of ripe peaches and mangoes with a flavourful mix of brown sugar, cardamom, cinnamon and white pepper for an exotic spread that radiates warmth and good weather all year round. Thankfully, I managed to can a few jars of this before it was eaten right out of the pot (yes, it is good enough to risk mouth blisters for) because if this past Winter is any indication of the future year to come, the weather's going to need all the help it can get!

Shared with Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, Gluten-Free Wednesdays and Gluten Free Fridays

Monday, April 6, 2015

Shannon's Lemon-Cranberry Scones

I absolutely hate when favourite products of mine are discontinued, changed or simply no longer carried where I shop. This happens to me so often these days with food items, my mom and I have taken to buying stuff en masse and hoarding it in our pantry and freezer. Of course, a good reason for my dilemma is that I do require some "specialty" items (mostly vegan, allergy friendly and/or very low-fat), but even when it comes to run-of-the-mill food shopping for the whole family we've been forced to hit two or three stores in search of an item.

Understandably, what's worse for my household (and most others' I know of) is when a favourite restaurant changes their menu or (horrors) goes out of business. For instance, we were frequent visitors at a few local pubs (one of which was run by a friend of the family) when, out of the blue, they closed within months of each other. Gone were one's decadent fish and chips doused with malt vinegar and their classic pickles, away went the other's to-die-for pasta and British curry bowls. Sad days, friends... sad days. Our local bakery changed their homemade, super-buttery croissants and danishes formulae over to par-baked, frozen dough, neither of which lent the (more expensive) treats any real flavour besides sugar and salt.

Thankfully, when it comes to the restaurant dishes at least, I learned to cook and developed a sense of adventure in the kitchen. I love to experiment with recipes anyway, and as I became aware of what the elements in recipes did (especially in baking) I found more and more ways of making foods close to, or better than, the originals. More than that, I could do them from scratch, and cheaper! Last year one of my co-workers and friends was telling me about the "death" of Starbucks' old formula for lemon scones - most notably the lack of glaze on top in lieu of a crunchy sugar sprinkle. Now, I have to admit, I go to the 'Bucks for the coffee and espresso alone, so never thought to look at their display case. A little Googling later and I had a few lemony scone recipes at my fingertips, which I combined with a little extra ingredient know-how to come up with the ones I'm sharing today.

"Shannon's" Lemon Cranberry Scones

These wedges are the perfect balance of buttery, sweet, tangy, rich, tender and fluffy - the dried cranberries add just the right amount of texture and colour, while lemon comes around in the forms of zest, juice and extract. As the recipe makes a fair amount - and my coworker would likely only have one or two others willing to share the lemony bliss - I used a blend of shortening and butter and added a pinch of soy lecithin granules so that they wouldn't go stale or dry after a day or two, nor would they suffer if frozen. In fact, I actually froze the dough pre-baking because I knew I wouldn't get to it immediately, and when popped right into the oven from frozen the scones were the fluffiest and softest ones I'd ever made. Glazed with their tangy powdered sugar icing, they looked and (from what I hear) tasted better than their predecessors, and I've had requests for more!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Chopped Chicken Ragu

I have this theory that celebrating the birthday of someone is misguided - if anything, the date of your birth should be a celebration of the efforts of the parents who not only have birth to you, but raised to to become the person you are today. It's not overly conventional thinking, but I'm like that! Plus, it takes the emphasis off of me every April 4 ;-).

Chopped Up Chicken Thigh Ragu

Anyways, with the birthday rant over and with a mind to celebrating my mom in particular, I will turn to a recipe that has become her long-time favourite sauce and/or stew since I made it up for a class project in 2009. As I've said numerous times before, we are bona fide veggieholics, and there is almost nothing better than tucking into a dish made with the bounty of the garden or the labours of our local farmers. I originally created the hearty (and gluten-free) mixture of diced chicken thighs, fresh rosemary, carrots, tomatoes and zucchini to be a hearty sauce for pasta or whole grains, and this is still one of the family's favourite ways to eat it. Using chicken thighs (in place of the usual SBCB) lends the ragu not only a rich flavour but more iron, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, vitamin B-6 and zinc. That said, over the course of time we've also adapted it as a stand-alone stew (which is awesome the next day), as well as with various forms of protein like leftover holiday turkey, cubed tofu or cannellini beans.

Regardless of the "meat of the matter", we almost always keep a container of this stuff (or the ingredients to make it) on hand for a taste of Summer when Spring has barely lifted it's head!

Holistic Ragu with Leftover Turkey
Post Christmas Shredded Turkey Version!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday

Friday, April 3, 2015

Maritime Coffee Cake

When I was growing up, our local grocery store used to stock some of the best coffee cake I'd ever eaten. Sweet with a spicy ribbon, moist but not oily, a whole quarter of the treat could easily disappear if I wasn't paying attention - and unlike a lot of the other "bakery shop" cakes and muffins I've had over the years, it actually tasted like it was designed to go with a cup of rich, strong coffee, not a 40-word long "coffee beverage" or whipped cream somethingororther.

I don't want to think about how many years have passed since then - truly, my relative age was brought to light yesterday when some of my Grade 2 students asked me how long I'd been baking "fancy stuff". Taking my stint at George Brown as my baseline, I replied since 2008. Needless to say I felt every one of my (almost) 27 years when I had 3 of them say immediately "wow, that was a year before I was born!". Oy. I guess it doesn't help that old classmates of mine are now parents of some of my students either, but for some odd reason it's been like my 20s never existed (and not for the usual reasons people "forget" their 20's!).

Maritime Coffee Cake

Anyways, I wanted to share a "new" version one of my old favourite treats with you for my birthday (which happens to be tomorrow) and came up with a healthier, more flavourful bake in the process. Starting with Isa Chandra Moskowitz' "East Coast Coffee Cake" recipe in Vegan Brunch, I effectively un-veganized it using Amoré Almonds + Dairy beverage (although any dairy or non-dairy milk will work A-OK). Then, I layered on the nutty, earthy flavours I love in baking with camelina oil, flax, quinoa and a touch of chickpea flour. The topping is definitely present (and divine!) but doesn't overwhelm the tender and moist cake underneath. I wouldn't change the ratio at all - and speaking as a confirmed member of the New York Crumb Cake fan club, that's something to write home about!