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