Sunday, May 31, 2015

Apple Drop Candy #SundaySupper

It's been a while since I've journeyed into the candy-making arena, and given that Summer is around the corner with it's (generally) hot, humid, not-so-candy-friendly weather I don't forsee a rash of gummies, chocolates or marshmallows anytime soon. As a last hurrah before the candy curtain falls for a few months, I turned to one of my simplest and most versatile recipes - clear droplets of crystallized fruit juice with rich undertones of varietal honey. The recipe was one I had obtained from one of my mom's old coworkers, who also co-owned an apiary and made the most decadent honey-filled hard candies I've ever tasted... though it was only after she left the company and lost touch with us that I ever looked at the recipe card.

Apple Cider Candy Drops

The original combination used clover honey and created sugar-dusted lollipops, but I was given some absolutely delicious orange blossom honey and decided to use that. Not having any candy sticks at home (and frankly, being too cheap to buy any), the lollipops turned into candy "drops" - making them deliciously suckable treats on the go with much less fuss. If I was making this again, I'd definitely opt for one of the flavourful varieties - for example manuka (not the raw, medicinal kind though), leatherwood or (my all time favourite) chestnut. Even though a mere ¼ cup of the sweetener makes it into the pot, it's combination with pure apple cider elevates both flavours and definitely makes you appreciate the nuances in each!

This week, the Sunday Supper tastemakers have put on their super-cook capes on to save the day (or dinner) with recipes that use five or fewer ingredients. (Water, salt, pepper, and oil are “freebies” that do not count as ingredients.) From pasta dishes to slow cooker entrees to delicious sweet treats to enticing appetizers, you’ll be inspired to try these easy recipes. T.R. of Gluten Free Crumbley is our host this week. Thanks T.R.!


Appetizers and Snacks

Main Dish

Side Dish

10 Easy Recipe Substitutions by Sunday Supper Movement

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.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Gluten Free Protein Power Cookies

I don't know about you, but at about 5PM on Wednesdays I hit my weekly "wall". You know it too - that point where you simply start "existing" day to day just to get a few moments of downtime on the weekend away from the bustle of work meetings, bills to pay, files to send and generally draining weekday stuff. My colleagues, by and large, hit the same wall around this time of the week too - especially near the end of term where the last place anybody (child or adult) wants to be is inside and tempers and stress levels run high. Needless to say, by the time I crash through the door after work (usually about 6PM) I'm grumpy and tired. When I was in college, you could add "ravenous" to that list too - but thankfully I've begun planning ahead and packing "car snacks" like fruit, veggie sticks and these nutrient-rich cookies so that now when I come home I no longer feel the need to reach for the first thing I find in the fridge. The second thing, maybe (kidding, but I do go for a snack right before I get home to stave off pre-dinner nibbles).

GF chocolate chip cookies with protein  power

So, whether you're a busy teacher, a cramming student, the 5AM gym rat I used to be, a busy parent shuttling the kids to dance-soccer-piano-karate or simply someone needing a sweet, nutritious protein and energy boost mid afternoon, these slightly crispy, slightly chewy chocolate chunk cookies fit the bill! Using ground TVP adds a boost of fibre, protein and iron as well as a toasty, nutty flavour and extra binding power (see below for alternates), while the golden syrup adds a touch of chew and the chocolate chunks add sheer decadence. As a bonus, they're gluten free - and easy to modify for dairy and egg allergies too by swapping the butter for coconut oil or Earth Balance and the egg for 2 tbsp extra flaxseed meal or Homemade Egg Replacer.

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Strawberry Meringue Tartlets #SundaySupper

One of my favourite things about teaching cooking to a gang of (relatively) young children is that they are enthralled by the aspect of "danger" in a dish, even if nothing truly ominous is present. All it takes is for me to mention that I am "letting them" do something (like using knives) that they wouldn't normally get to at home, or remind them that there's a heating element on (even though it's a fairly safe induction model) to grab their attention, and in the end I know I've managed to give them an enhanced respect for the nuances of the kitchen. I think I may have topped myself the other week, though, when I broke out not only (pasteurized) "raw" egg whites but the real flame for these strawberry-stuffed, meringue-topped tartlets. 

While making this recipe was the perfect way to embrace the first crop of affordable strawberries, the filling is so simple and variable that you can use any fresh or frozen (and thawed) berry you like. For example, if I was making these for myself, those strawberries (and the accompanying jam) would be transformed into cherries and sour cherry jam, or perhaps cherries and lemon curd. The cocoa-kissed graham cracker crust has extra body and flavour from shredded coconut and ground flaxseed, which help it stand up to the fruit long enough for a fork to get in there! The pièce de résistance is definitely that pillow of meringue, just kissed by enough flame to turn golden and marshmallowy. It's a perfect Spring-Summer celebration dessert, whether you're partying for the long weekend or simply longer daylight hours!

Strawberry Meringue Tartlets

This week's #SundaySupper is celebrating the US Memorial Day long weekend with recipes highlighting the colors of the US flag: red, white, and blue. Whether you're American or not, you're sure to find something delicious to kick off your Summer!

Food Using One Color  

Red Food
White Food
Blue Food
Food Using Two Colors  

Red and White Food
Blue and White Food
Red, White and Blue Food

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.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Brilliant Bean Dip #RecipeRedux

Working on reports late at night means I fall victim to the midnight snack attacks - that lone cup of lukewarm coffee just isn't cutting it anymore and there isn't enough hunger for anything substantial, just snack-worthy. When feelings like this hit me, it's not usually the sweets like chocolate, cookies or ice cream that I go for, though. No, instead I want the salty, savoury, spicy stuff - zippy pickles, popcorn, and veggie sticks with a hearty dip.

Brilliant Bean Dip

I'm not a fan of the creamy-gooey dip style that seems to feature in every veggie tray I've seen at parties. No, I'd much rather have salsa, mustard, cocktail sauce (weird but it's delicious) or a bean dip like this one to dunk my broccoli, carrot, celery and cauliflower into. I've been a long time fan of the Desert Pepper Trading Company's Pinto Bean Dip, and since it's fairly hard to come by around here now *sigh* I figured it was time I tried my hand at making my own. I lucked out when my mom gave me a copy of Vegan Bites: Recipes for Singles, which had an "un-fried beans" recipe that made a perfect base. A handful of tweaks and a trip through the food processor later and I had a spicy bean dip and spread which was absolutely delicious and fat free. The blackeyed peas were a non-traditional switch up, but their earthy creaminess coupled with the spicy jalapeno and sassy lime juice added a great extra layer to the dip's complexity that I fell in love with. I made a ton of it last weekend for the freezer too, so that my lettuce wraps, burritos and late night snack attacks will never be without this staple.

This month's #RecipeRedux is DIY Kitchen Essentials - staples we used to buy but can make, healthier and fresher, at home for a fraction of the price.

Brilliant Bean Dip

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Eggless Vanilla Caramel Biscotti #CreativeCookieExchange

You can tell the end of the school year is nigh around here - coffee breaks and lunch hours at school are no longer simply times for relaxation but important prep and work periods, and the evenings and weekends are spent double checking report cards and the plans for end-of-the-year presentations that are drawing ever nearer. With just over a month until my first year of teaching Montessori draws to a close, I can't help but marvel at the work that my more experienced coworkers have done for years without fail. While I could certainly go for a black eyed coffee and a two-day nap right about now, I can't imagine what the collective feeling of the staff is. Suffice it to say, I'm going to assume coffee and something sweet will be involved.

Vanilla Caramel Biscotti

While the bulk of my coworkers will never turn down chocolate in any form, even I have to admit that we're nearing a saturation point with the assorted mother's day, birthday, thank you and general "have something sweet" goodies that turn up in the staff room. Instead, the last time I had the urge to bake (more out of a need to avoid sitting in front of a computer screen than anything) I took a different tack, whipping up a low-fat, vegan biscotti packed with caramel, vanilla and almond flavour. When I say these are caramel biscotti, I'm not kidding - the rich, bittersweet flavour and colour comes from a full 3/4 cup of vegan caramel sauce married with buttery-yellow, somewhat nutty tasting Kamut® flour. Slivered almonds enhance the hint of almond flavour from the sauce while adding visual and textural contrast. Dunked into a mug of rich, dark roast coffee, the combination of flavours can take you away to that out-of-the-way cafe you never knew existed!

This month's Creative Cookie Exchange theme is Caramel, and by the looks of things we more than have you covered between macarons, brownies, shortbread and everything in between! 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. Please be patient though, as this month Laura is off to Italy and will not be checking email quite as often!

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:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Figgy Olive Oil and Sesame Challah #BreadBakers

While it's only been a few days since I last shared a decadent, hearty loaf of bread with everyone, I couldn't wait to get back into the bread kitchen as soon as I could!

With the school year's end approaching all too quickly, I find myself spending more and more time away from my beloved stove and oven and in front of Excel spreadsheets and Word documents, moseying through report cards. When I can't stand another minute in front of the screen (or sitting still), bread making becomes my go-to relief - it's multi-stepped, interspersed with waiting periods which I use to continue "work" work, the (albeit minimal) hand kneading and shaping is therapeutic and the sheer variety of flavour and texture possibilities allow my imagination to run wild, even if only for an hour.

Figgy Olive Oil & Sesame Challah

I had kept my eye on the #BreadBakers challenge group for a while now, soaking up the decadent posts from the likes of Baking in Pyjamas, Noshing with the Nolands, Magnolia Days and a few others from #SundaySupper, and I finally got the nerve to join in! This month was focused on the world of stuffed bread, and I knew exactly the loaf I wanted to create. Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, this just hearty enough, half whole-wheat dough is enriched to silky, smooth and tender perfection with eggs, honey and both olive and sesame oils. As tender and moist as it is, after rising the dough keeps its integrity, making it strong enough to not only weave into an 8-strand plait but hold ribbons of homemade fig-sesame jam inside each "rope". Each slice has maximum fig and sesame distribution, and truthfully needs no adornment... however, that didn't stop up from thinly spreading on some tahini and runny honey at breakfast time!

Figgy Olive Oil & Sesame Challah

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the BreadBakers home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

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

This month, we're filling out breads with all sorts of goodies... why not "stuff" yourself with these bakes!

Sweet Breads

Savory Breads

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Super Sunny Dutch Oven Sourdough #SundaySupper

I have one of the best moms in the world. I mean, everybody says that about their mother - and I don't doubt for a second that every single maternal figure out there is beyond worthy of adoration - but looking back at what mine has put up with over the last 10 years or so I can't believe that she would still want to associate with me, let alone put me up with room, board, food and transportation. On top of that, Mom has essentially dedicated the whole last school year to "my" cause (getting me through my first year teaching), re-adding "craft b*tch", "chauffeur" and "substitute teacher" to her resume and maintaining her position as chief taste tester for almost everything you see on the blog. Of course with this last "job title", I do my best to choose things with a reasonably high chance of approval (i.e. no okra or non-traditional meat (Mom's skeeved out by game meat and even bison), but on occasion introducing something totally foreign like tofu in a flavour-packed, well executed way has created cravings for a world outside of the local grocery store.

"Super - Sunny" Dutch Oven Sourdough

I'm not a stranger to cooking and baking with Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes), since I not only grow them in the backyard but supplement my harvests with farmer's market purchases throughout the Fall months. For Mother's Day, I revisited my Dutch Oven Sunchoke Sourdough from years ago - a crusty, hearty, whole grain loaf with a slightly sweet, earthy crumb - and added even more "sunflower" elements. Why sunflower elements? Well, as I learned when I first started growing these tubers, Jerusalem artichokes are actually a relative of the sunflower, not the traditional artichoke! In total, both ground and whole sunflower seeds, plus sunflower oil and sunflower milk, made their way into the soft dough, finished off with an extra sunny pop of colour from diced dried apricots. Artisan crustiness formed in the Dutch oven's makeshift cloche environment, resulting in a deeply browned, hearty bite without ever going near a toaster. Luckily, the recipe makes a decent amount of bread, since it was devoured with even greater passion than it's predecessor - especially with a smear of sunflower seed butter and dark honey on top.

What do you have cooking for Mom on Mother’s Day? Breakfast in bed? A special dinner? Maybe a cookie jar full of her favorite cookies? This week, our Sunday Supper team is celebrating those special mother figures in our lives with gifts from the kitchen. Camilla Mann (of Culinary Cam) is our host this week... thanks Camilla!

Here's what's cooking up:

Celebratory Sips  
Starters and Salads
Hearty Mains
Treats and Sweets
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, May 8, 2015

Blood Orange Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I think I speak for most of us working folk when I say that some days, you really, really need that mid-morning break from the daily grind. Whether it's a few minutes for sheer caffeination (hello, early morning meetings, drop offs or deadlines) or a chance to embrace the staff room as a makeshift urban oasis, the chance to step away from the must do world we live in is definitely something to savour. Since I work both at home and "at work" (i.e. the school), I'm fortunate enough to find myself in two locations with break areas filled with not only a chance to decompress from the requirements of working, but usually tasty treats too! Obviously, being who I am, I contribute my fair share of the goodies - and whenever I find myself indebted to a coworker for covering part of a shift or going out of their way to help me with the daily chores of classroom maintenance, I try to give a little bit of extra "oomph" to my gratitude with a personalized gift from the kitchen. 

Blood Orange Chocolate Chunk Cookies

These vegan and wholegrain cookies were one such gift for one of many colleagues who is constantly helping me out - crispy-shelled, just-big-enough drops have a tender interior redolent of the exotic sweet tang of fresh blood orange. To counter the typical saccharine nature of the classic chocolate chipper, I opted to use whole wheat pastry flour as well as a mix of bittersweet chocolate chunks and mini chips, not only diversifying the texture but adding a bit of "not your mama's cookies" flair to the works. From experience, I knew that popping the dough into the fridge for an hour or two would make for more even-crumbed, better-baking cookies with a richer, more blended flavour - a fact which played to my advantage, since it gave me the chance to run errands between mixing and baking!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Beet and Amaranth Soup

Well, it looks like (knock wood) we're finally beginning to enter official "leg-shaving" season - i.e. the temperature is kissing 20C and we can take the kids outside with barely a light jacket or sweater. My squash and tomato seedlings are popping up inside my mini-greenhouse, and with luck this weekend will also see the planting of my beet, carrot, chufa and nasturtium seeds! Seeing all the new life springing up around us (both plant and animal - we found a nest of baby bunnies while raking the lawn today) reminds me that fresh produce is just a stone's throw away... and I still have bags of processed veggies and stock fodder in the freezer from last fall to plow through!

One of the bagfuls of homegrown goodness I finally dug out of it's frosty home was packed with roasted and peeled Lutz beets. The best thing about this variety, to me, is that they totally lack any woodiness regardless of their size or age, and have a perfectly balanced sweet / earthy flavour that works in almost every application I've thought of - tossed into crisp salads, spiralized with carrots as a side, pickled, shredded into latke mixes or baked into cookies and cake. Given that I'm about to put this year's batch of seeds into the ground, though, I figured I should probably set about using up what I already had - and luckily it was time for me to make up a batch of soup for work lunches anyways! I had a brand-new copy of the Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook by Camilla V. Saulsbury begging to be cracked open, and with my pantry and freezer stocked and more than raring to go this light, flavourful adaptation of one of their soups was cooking up in short order. Along with the rich flavour of the root vegetables, the pot was filled with garlic, onions and amaranth seeds. For a final element of exoticism, I opted to add a squeeze of blood orange juice and shawarma seasoning to highlight the natural sweet-savoury flavours already going on.

Beet and Amaranth Soup

Digging into a bowl right off the stove was like experiencing the height of the garden season all over again - the flavour of the beets was bright and right at the forefront of the dish. After resting in the fridge, though, nutty elements from the amaranth and subtle spices from the seasonng blend crept through and truly made for a memorable lunch with a warmed piece of pita bread on the side!