Saturday, December 31, 2016

Rich Bruschetta Endive Cups

When entertaining, whether its for a small group of close friends or a party of 30+, I always like to make sure I have an assortment of nibbles that are bright and fresh to go with the standard bread and oil or chips and cheese. Usually guests mean a heavier main course too - and around here, undoubtedly dessert as well - and the ability to have a pop of colour and refreshing coolness is a welcome accompaniment.

Endive Cups with Two-Tomato Bruschetta

This year I was still coming down off my "tomato high" from the summer and knew exactly the app to put out on the table. While most of the fresh tomatoes in the stores are at the gross, mealy winter stage, we're lucky enough to have a greenhouse down the street (and if all else fails, a hydroponic operation a few towns over) which consistently gives us delicious tomatoes that I just had to use. To bump up the flavour even more, I tossed in some diced sundried tomatoes and a few tablespoons of their packing oil, adding a rich sweetness to the mixture. Roasted, rather than fresh, garlic added even more sweetness as well as the classic garlicky flavour without the bite. With all that sweetness, I had to balance it out, and opted for a dash of balsamic and a hit of lemon zest as well as some fresh basil.
Two-Tomato Bruschetta

Everything sat for a while at room temperature while we went about other preparations for the party, and when we were just about to open the door I spooned it into some lovely endive leaves and garnished each with a sprinkle of briny, perfectly salty sheep's milk feta. Leftovers (only of filling, since it makes a lot) found their way into more spartan, post-holiday meals such as toasted bread (usually challah), whole wheat pasta and plain fish or chicken and rice meals. It is a great low-calorie, low-fat alternative to the butter and cheese-heavy foods we go for in the winter, without tasting like it's cardboard-y diet food.

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Friday, December 30, 2016

Rich Herbed Crackers

As Winter continues, I've realized that more than the short sleeves and 30C days, I miss the freshness of my vegetable and herb gardens. During the season, it always seems like there's far too much of both the veggies and the herbs, but once they're done it's a dearth for another 5-6 months!

Luckily, canning, freezing and dehydrating work wonders to preserve the bounty, and by doing it myself I can control what happens with the formulation. Of course, some things just aren't as good preserved one way or another, like my lemon balm and basil. These, I realized as I made a compound butter for my favourite roast chicken, that most herbs, even the most delicate and dainty ones, explode flavour wise in a fat or oil medium. I decided I would use the rest of the butter (it happened to be EB Buttery Sticks since I was cooking with dairy-allergic guests coming) as a "catch all" herb butter, spiked with lemon zest, for future roasting and baking whims. 

Here's my mixture:

Done! Love herbed butter. It is perfect for so many things... especially stuffing under chicken skin before roasting and drizzling over pasta! #yum #food #cooking #butter #lemonbalm #thyme #rosemary #basil #richters #emeraldwinebasil #herbbutter

Herb Butter
4 oz butter
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tbsp packed minced fresh basil
1/2 tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tsp fresh lemon thyme leaves
3 tbsp minced lemon balm
  1. Melt together the butter and zest, remove from heat.
  2. Add remaining ingredients. 
  3. Pour into mini loaf pan or mould of choice and refrigerate until firm.

I made a good amount of the herb butter this summer, and to keep it around for longer, I wrapped each block in waxed paper and foil before freezing them. This holiday, we used up some of it in herbed vegetables at dinner and tossed with pasta, and to add to the spread for the New Year's festivities, I made a couple batches of these excellent "butter crackers".

We do a lot of entertaining around this time of year, and while it's usually the same group of people coming by, there is always the chance of an unexpected guest. As well as needing nibbles for home, I was putting together the last of my holiday gift boxes of goodies, which included those for two of my gluten-free friends. To keep things simple (and doable in one day) I used a recipe from Gluten Free on a Shoestring and adapted it to work with what I had on hand.  

The resulting crackers are light, savoury, crispy and not at all greasy, and stood up well to dips like hummus or even a few goodies from our cheese platter. In fact, my mom helped us eat some of the "edges" that weren't perfect squares by topping them with homemade cranberry sauce!

Rich Herbed Crackers

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Quadruple Pea Stir Fry

Even though winter has barely arrived on the calendar, it feels like it has been far too long since the greenness and life of living plants outdoors have been visible. The farmer's markets have been dormant for months now, and likewise the grocery store has been nothing but a black hole when it comes to sourcing any sort of fresh produce. When we can find fruit and vegetables out of cans and freezer bags, they're of dubious quality - not to mention they're prohibitively expensive, especially when we're cooking for a minimum of two produce addicts!

Quadruple Pea Stir Fry with Tofu, Cashews and Gnocchi

It's not like this is a brand new phenomenon here - for as long as I've been alive and longer, most Canadian winters are the deathly cold, windy and snowy variety. However, it's only been the past 10 or so years, when I've been buying groceries, that I've truly realized how bloody expensive anything fresh and vibrant is when we aren't in the 2-week-long growing season. With our garden proliferating over the summer, my Mom and I have become more or less proficient at blanching and freezing the hardier items like peas and beans. We also started cooking and freezing our homegrown soup beans for cheap and healthy dinners on the fly, and while I keep struggling with my indoor garden of herbs and microgreens, the ones that make it to harvest are delicious!

Quadruple Pea Stir Fry with Tofu, Cashews and Gnocchi

With a few bags of greenery sitting in the freezer and a yen for something more "springlike" than ice pellets and snowflakes, I decided to try re-making a dish I concocted over the summer - a somewhat unorthodox mixture of Asian and Italian cultures in a slightly spicy meal-in-a-bowl. The gnocchi (again, homemade from the freezer) mimics Korean-style tteok ppoki (rice cakes), Helping to soak up the delicious hoisin-ginger-garlic sauce along with the extra firm tofu and green veggie medley. In total, four varieties of the sweet, springy green vegetable make their way into the stir fry - the only one that you'd have to procure fresh is the pea shoots (but you can substitute parsley, watercress, even a small amount of spinach if you want).

Quadruple Pea Stir Fry with Tofu, Cashews and Gnocchi

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Red Velvet Biscotti

Merry Christmas, everyone! Since I (like most of you I'm sure) are running around with a bazillion to-do lists in your minds, I'll keep my preamble short and sweet today. Suffice it to say that on days like today, the chance to sit down with a cup of coffee and a cookie is more welcome than normal. Even if that sitting down is in the car and the coffee is in a paper cup, taking along a sturdy, travel friendly snack like a biscotti can make the "break" complete.

Just one Red Velvet Biscotto away from a delicious afternoon break #yummy #yum #vegetarian #red #redvelvet #biscotti #cookies

We are most definitely fans of red velvet around here, and in particular I love the cream cheese frosting that caps off the slices so perfectly. Granted - I'm the type of person who would eat cream cheese frosting by the spoonful if given the chance, but the tang perfectly balances the sugar and adds to the hints from buttermilk. To make one of my favourite cakes "travel friendly", I decided to try them in the sturdiest form I knew: biscotti!

Using Sandra's recipe as my base, I switched up the fats to incorporate my favourite cream cheese, added rich brown sugar for its molasses note, and added some Red Velvet Emulsion to solidify the nuances of flavour that fill the cake and boost the red colour. A combination of an egg white and a whole egg allowed for crispness on the cut sides, while adding mayonnaise not only stood in for extra eggs but lent a slight tang not unlike the original buttermilk. A few white chocolate chips baked on top lightly caramelized and seemed almost like a toasted meringue frosting with their vanilla sweetness. At any rate, they were perfect on their own or with a coffee, and I've had requests for more!

Here's to you and yours, and have a fantastic holiday!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Candy Paint Dipped Apples

Like many people, I've always associated apples with the Fall. Thanksgiving was never without an apple pie to go alongside the traditional pumpkin, and it was only in October that indulging in apple fritters or a bowl of thick, chunky applesauce hot from the pot seemed right. At the mall, there would always be one or two shops that boasted the brightly coloured candied apples, dolled up to the nines with nuts or chocolate, but again, it looked out of place with the swimwear or the skis. On the rare occasion that we would get to buy one (usually from the Fall fair, where the prices were more reasonable than the $7 at the shop), the candy shell was never my cup of tea. If there was caramel, even plain, that was what my allowance would be invested in.

Candy Paint Dipped Apple

I haven't made candied apples in a dog's age, and frankly, the thought of ever doing them again never crossed my mind. After all, there are cookies, fudge and Toast Toppers to delve into! But when my co-teacher mentioned making these in class as our "holiday gift" for the kids, I couldn't see why not. Hard candy (which is all the shell really is) is cheap and fairly simple to make, easily coloured and sets up fast, meaning we could make them in the morning and they'd be ready and packed up at the end of the day. While checking the recipe (I still couldn't believe it was only hard-crack sugar) I came across a unique way of tinting the candy at Rose Bakes, where the mixture is made opaque with white food colouring and tinted with a bottle of gel dye. They looked so incredible I couldn't wait to try it out - and while the white dye is expensive, it is equally impressive and I would heartily recommend it. The volume of candy meant the bright red colouring I bought was significantly diluted, giving my baby apples a "pastel paint" appearance. The kids loved the Barbie pink, but if I wanted "true red" I would undoubtedly need a minimum of two jars of gel colour. Next Halloween I might try straight black - since it's dark it might not need the extra help in the opacity department.

Another consideration is the variety of apple you choose. I strongly suggest a tart apple (i.e. Granny Smith or Russett) so that the combination of the sweet-sweet sugar and tangy fruit is in perfect balance. Our "classroom" apples were Galas (definitely one of my least favourite apples) - they are fairly sweet, not that the kids minded at all - but if I was making them for myself I would have added a sour flavour to the candy instead (lime with a dash of citric acid maybe, or even classic sour apple!). Of course, you can go wild with the flavour options available these days, even in our relatively small bakery supply store a couple town over they have a cabinet of LorAnn candy and chocolate flavours, most of which would work wonderfully with the fruit. While the apples were kept au naturale for the kids, I did pick up some of the Red Velvet Emulsion and Anise Oil this year for holiday baking and candy-making, and I bet the cinnamon would be amazing here, especially with a sweet apple.

Regardless of the colour and flavour you choose, these are definite showstoppers on the holiday table, and make great parting gifts for kids. Just remember not to bite the rock-hard candy - unless you want broken teeth! (Although I guess then you could ask Santa for "your two front teeth", but I digress)

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays #226

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Butterless Walnut Chocolate Chunkers #CreativeCookieExchange

Last weekend my house was filled to bursting with everything sweet and rich - aromas of buttery shortbread, spicy gingerbread, dried fruit and nuts macerated in wine, creamy fudge and pounds of both milk and bittersweet chocolate. Blocks of butter were perpetually out on the countertop to soften and the oven was on so much that my mom wanted to open the windows to cool off the kitchen - crazy in the -20C chill!

Butterless Walnut Chocolate Chunkers

While butter, and dairy in general, are definitely heavy hitters in the holiday baking game, a lot of my friends and some of my family are avoiding milk and milk products - some are lactose intolerant, others outright allergic, still others vegan for ethical reasons. For them, the glory of the annual shortbread marathon is lost, along with the caramels, fudge, truffles and brioche. For them (and everyone else at the annual get-together on Christmas Eve), I whipped up a batch of these rather fancy, "grown up" chocolate chunk cookies. In lieu of butter, I chose a combination of canola and rich walnut oil, amplifying the flavour with minced walnuts and garnishing everything with chopped, high quality, super-dark chocolate. Like the Full of Secrets Chocolate Chip Cookies, they contained mayonnaise and custard powder to create and maintain the perfect balance of chewiness and tenderness.

Nuts in cookies are a tradition celebrated all over the world--and Creative Cookie Exchange has joined the party!

You can also 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:

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Peanut Butter, Banana & Honey Granola

I've been on a granola kick again this year, using the neutral bulking properties of oats and various grains to carry the flavour I happen to be craving at the time. With treats like Blueberry Crisp and a "Southern Belle"  peach cobbler for inspiration, I turned to one of my childhood comfort foods - the peanut butter, banana and honey sandwich.

Peanut Butter,  Banana & Honey Granola

I come by my PB love honestly. My whole family is guilty of eating mass quantities of the stuff - whether it's smeared on a slab of Challah, dolloped on crackers alongside a 5-alarm chili or simply on a spoon au naturale. More than that, Dad and I ADORE the sweet and salty combination of peanut butter and honey with the sticky caramelized notes of banana. This granola is everything the sandwich is, in portable, snackable form! Perfect for the holiday rush, a baggie of this crunchy cereal is easy to tuck away into your purse or backpack, and a lot cheaper than picking up something from the mall food court. To up the decadence even more with my second batch, I tossed in some dark chocolate chips as well. Either way, it has no added oil or fat except from the peanut butter (I even used an all-natural style, which worked perfectly), is perfectly sweet without being "brush-your-teeth required", and has an added hit of satiating protein and fibre from the toasted soy flour.

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays #225

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Fruit & Nut Sourdough #BreadBakers

If you ask me, one of the absolute best parts of the winter holiday season is the smell of all the baking taking place. At home, the weekends (my only free time) are packed with the aromas of ginger, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, accented with sugar, butter, yeast, toasted nuts and chocolate. At work, my Home Ec classes are going to be churning out batches of my mom's delicious shortbread to take home, sure to be perfuming the school with the undeniably rich smell of baking butter.

Fruit & Nut Sourdough

While cookies and cakes are delicious, and perfectly at home (not to mention expected) during the holidays, my favourite treats are still the holiday breads. There's nothing quite like that aroma of the caramelizing crust, or a perfectly proofed dough just waiting to be punched down and shaped. In fact, I wait for (and demand) the opportunity to knock back, knead and braid our traditional Challah every year, and if I wake up early enough (read: 6AM on the 22nd of December, usually one of the first days of the holiday break!) I'm lucky enough to roll and decorate our Filled Holiday Brioche too.

While those two loaves must wait until Christmas to meet their (bread)maker, we still need a more or less "daily" bread - and why not start ramping up for holiday flavours than by mixing a few of them into a hearty, wheaten loaf? Not only did I get the nuts, raisins and oranges to sing with this cracked-wheat crusted loaf, but I kneaded in some of my favourite Winter fruit - Asian pear - as well. To keep things from getting too sweet, I decided to boost the yeasty flavour with my sourdough starter. The acidity from the starter also worked with the potato flakes to keep the crumb tender and moist - key for any whole grain bread. My final trick was actually a happy accident: having no "regular" milk in the house, I tossed in some leftover soymilk. What I got was a bread that simply soared to life, proofing beautifully both rises, all while managing to avoid giving the bread any sort of "off" or "beany" taste. Although I prefer cashew milk for drinking, soy will definitely be on my shelf for bread baking days!


#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. This month's theme is Sweetened Holiday Yeast Breads, hosted by Stacy of Food Lust People Love.

Check out the other breads below:

    Friday, December 9, 2016

    Rodent Seed Crunchies

    While I am well known as a "cat mom" amongst my students, few people realize that, for at least a portion of the year, our home is also the nesting place for around 10 of my sister's pet rats. Most people (even the Grade 4-5 boys I teach) go all squeamish and squeal when I mention the little boys and girls that roost in our front rec room, but the truth is they are quite adorable. For one thing, they all have their own personalities and quirks - you can always tell who will be the mischief-maker on cage cleaning day. They are also incredibly intelligent animals, knowing their names and forming intricate family networks in their shared accommodations. A few of them have even befriended my cat, who (not unlike Finding Nemo's Dory) thinks she can "speak rodent" and chirps incessantly back and forth with them.

    The cage is OPEN!! #rats #ratsofinstagram #petsofinstagram #pets #animals #adorable #stig #potatoes @teaghan_r

    Now, our family has always had a tradition of including a "pet stocking" by the fireplace for Santa to fill - one big ol' sock to house the treats and toys for all the current dogs / cats / fish / rodents living under our roof. Nowadays, the three kitties are the most noticeable non-human creatures here, and their gifts are easy to pick out - if it bounces, rolls, jingles or can be batted down the hallway at Mach 10, you're golden. The ratsies, or The Girls and Top Gear Boys (Jeremy, Richard, Stig and Diesel), are usually thrilled with the occasional box or paper towel roll, but when it comes to treats finding good quality, affordable ones can be a little trickier. The diet of a rat differs from rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs, and some foods are completely toxic (example: oranges are deadly to the male rats, but not the females). Thankfully my sister is almost 100% certified as a Vet Tech and knows her ratology inside-out, so she could guide me on how to make the gang their own crunchy biscuits this holiday.
    Diesely Diesel! #rats #ratsofinstagram #cute #adorable #animals #petsofinstagram #potatoes 🐀

    Wednesday, November 30, 2016

    "Rum"drop Loaf Cake

    Ever wound up with random candy that you neither remember buying nor particularly like? When I was cleaning out my baker's pantry (stuffed to the gills as always), I came across a sizeable bag of gumdrops that must have been a gift from a year or so ago. I generally detest gummy candy (sour keys are an exception) so I have no idea why I kept them around... needless to say, I had a choice to make: bake them up or toss them out.

    I'm guessing you can figure out the option I went for.

    RUM Drop Fruitcake

    I kept the candy (or at least enough for these cakes) because while I don't like the stick-in-your-molars texture and cloying fake-fruit flavours, some of the people I make gift baskets for at the holidays do - especially in fruitcake. The minor issue of the drops being rather old and dried out was solved with an extended bath in rum along with raisins and dried cranberries. Like most fruit mixes for holiday cakes, the longer the mixture soaks, the better - a good thing, since I had it in the fridge during the week while I was at work! By the time bake day arrived, everything was plump, sweet and boozy, ready to fold into the buttery, coconut-scented batter and keep things moist and decadent for weeks. I froze the loaves so they'll be ready when gifting season arrives, and I would suggest rather thin slices so as to avoid lodging a chunk of fruity candy in your molars!

    Monday, November 28, 2016

    Microwave Chickpea Brittle

    Most people who know me cannot believe I manage to either bake or make candy. As logical and literal-minded as I am about most things, the kitchen is my playground - never mind that "baking is a science" claptrap. Give me a basic recipe, and my mind will start running wild with variations - mostly those designed to cater to various allergies and preferences in my social circles - and thanks to enough experience in the kitchen I can generally (though not always) reckon something will turn out.

    Just look at the bubbles!

    Sometimes, though, I come to a conclusion that I believe is completely new and groundbreaking, only to figure out someone beat me to the punch. That was the case here. I had been toying with using roasted chickpeas or soybeans in place of nuts in a candy for a few months, and my mom had mentioned a craving for the British sponge toffee she had eaten on vacation. While I love making candy for holiday gifts, sponge toffee and brittles with baking soda have never entered my sphere of experience. I started Googling toffee recipes and found some peanut brittles that looked similar, which reminded me of the roasted beans. Just as I was patting myself on the back for "creating" a new recipe, I came across this one from Abby that promised to be much, much easier and quicker. I was nervous, since the microwave eliminates the ability to use a candy thermometer, but the original's recipe timing was spot-on, resulting in a candy that was light, bubbly and crunchy, melting on the tongue around just-salty-enough chickpeas. It makes a great snack on its own or crumbled onto ice cream or yogurt, and it's 100% school safe too! 

    Microwave Chickpea Brittle

    The best part though is how fast it is to make. In fact, it's probably dangerously quick - no need to slowly heat up sugar and babysit it at all - and so easy that you (or your supervised children) can whip up a batch after school and have it ready for dessert. As long as you're armed with a SilPat and a big ol' bowl, candy is yours!

    Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

    Sunday, November 27, 2016

    Chocolate, Caramel and Cranberry Biscotti #SundaySupper

    I love making biscotti for the holidays. Not only are the recipes infinitely variable, but the cookies last ages - perfect for advance baking and last-minute entertaining! While they're not (nor will they ever be) as awesome as my mom's shortbreads, they have become one of my signature gift basket additions along with a variety of Toast Toppers and a candy or two. While most traditional recipes for the crunchy cookie sticks are built on a base of eggs, I've made my way away from using them since I never buy them (I don't eat eggs). This leaves me lots of room for playing with various egg replacers, from a starch based Homemade Egg Replacer to ground flax and chia seeds, custard powder, chickpea flour, psyllium fibre and even aquafaba.

    Cranberry, Chocolate, Caramel and Almond Biscotti

    This time around, the biscotti (which I adapted from Cookie Madness) are packed with the rich flavours of butterscotch schnapps, kinako, almonds, dark chocolate chips, cranberries and caramel bits. While eggless, the recipe isn't vegan, but it is a delectably crunchy dunker that cries out for a strong cup of coffee!

    This week's #SundaySupper is focused on food gifts. I love watching the looks on people's faces when they receive a box of goodies from me - especially since they're customized for their likes / restrictions, etc. I've always believed that including at least one homemade gift makes a package more meaningful than just a shrink-wrapped item from the store, and it doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. For me, boxes of treats are what I do - it's who I am, and I've yet to hear from a recipient that a jar of jam or a square of fudge wound up in the trash!

    Baked Goods






    Jams, Syrups, Drinks


    Mixes and Spices

    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.

    Sunday, November 20, 2016

    Lemony Chicken-Lentil Soup with Couscous #SundaySupper

    From the first weekend of October through to the end of January, our household lives off of leftovers. Between Thanksgiving, birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas parties and Christmas Eve, almost every week gives us another gastronomic adventure. By the time February rolls around, we feel like we're rolling around as well!

    Of course, the best part about any of these holiday indulgence meals is the leftovers they provide. As a kid, I'd enjoy my portion of turkey and mashed potatoes like everyone else, dressed up in the holiday finery, but the next day's open-face sandwich for lunch was my jam - thick slices of homemade Challah (after Christmas) or dense storebought sourdough bread, toasted, smeared with cranberry sauce and piled with cold turkey before getting a generous ladle of hot gravy. Inexplicably, the turkey (even the breast meat) re-hydrated overnight in the fridge, and along with the gravy pour made for a melt in your mouth texture we never got Day 1.

    Lemony Chicken, Couscous and Lentil Soup

    As the years (and additional holiday meals) added up, the rich gravy/bread leftover enjoyment lost its luster somewhat. Now, our favourite way to get rid of extra meat and veggies is to rework them into various soups, stir fries or pasta dishes, each with a little bit of a "lighter" taste even though they are still filling and warming. This soup is one of those recipes that is perfect for clearing out the fridge of the veggies not used for the main meal as well as a good chunk of leftover meat. In addition to the "meat and three" combination, I added some whole grain Israeli couscous and leftover lentils for some extra oomph (aka fibre, nutrition and bulk) and picked up the "leftover" flavour with a shot of bright lemon. The result was semi-Greek in flavour, but more than that it was something easy to enjoy daily for lunch without feeling like it was "turkey again"!

    #SundaySupper this week is all about embracing (and sometimes hiding) those leftover bits and pieces of the holiday meal. Whether you're gearing up for the big meal this week or are thinking ahead to December, you're sure to find something great!












    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.

    Sunday, November 13, 2016

    Cranberry Cream Loaf #SundaySupper

    Nothing says the winter holidays to me like cranberries. Mouth-puckeringly tart au naturale, they add the perfect balance to the rich, sugary decadence of the season's platters. Not only that, but they are uber versatile: cooked slowly with caramelized onions for a turkey topper, tossed with kale or Brussels sprouts as a side, baked into the morning's scones or stirred into the meal-ending desserts for an edgy bite. We almost always have a partial bag left over after out holiday meals (mom and I are the only two fans), but I use that as an opportunity to whip up a tea-cake like this one.

    Cranberries and Cream Loaf

    Perfect for filling the void between meals when you don't feel like a full entree (like our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day menus, filled with heavy breakfasts and dinners but never a lunch), a slice of this hearty, nutty tea-cake is moist from a free-pour's worth of half-and-half cream. While it is partially whole grain and very low in added sugars, it no less earns a "dessert" status - being both tender as the day is long and as sweet as your everyday loaf cake due to a blend of sweeteners. Not only did I serve thick slices with strong cups of tea, but the leftovers, thinly sliced, dried into delectable biscotti chips that fit perfectly on a coffee bar.

    The #SundaySupper tastemakers are sharing their best holiday dessert recipes this week - from cookies to cakes to delicious pastry!

    Bars and Cookies





    Puddings and Creams

    Sunday Supper Movement

    Join the #SundaySupper conversation on Twitter every Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7 p.m. EST. 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 8, 2016

    "Doughnut Shop" Biscotti

    I grew up just after the peak of the "true" doughnut shop era. You know, the time where you could walk into any coffee shop selling the slightly sweet, usually glazed pastry and be certain that a pot of boiling lard or tallow would be in the back, creating rings of perfectly light, crisp and ever so slightly greasy perfection ideal for tossing in spiced sugar and serving up in a paper bag. In my childhood, there were a handful of these gems around that I had the fortune of visiting maybe five or six times - and the experience and flavour memory I had of those special trips has stuck with me for decades.

    "Doughnut Shop" Biscotti

    Of course, none of these "real" doughnut shops would have dreamed of serving biscotti - let's face it, most of them barely served anything you could even call coffee (unless bitter, scalding water is your brew of choice). Instead, they prided themselves on freshly fried pastry made daily - sometimes every few hours - to keep up with demand. Coffee was something you could do at home.

    Today, the tables have turned - you're likely to find much better coffee in the shops, but thanks to doughnut shops turning into chain franchises demanding consistency it's rare that you'll ever get a truly fresh cruller, bismarck or cake ring anymore. Instead, these (along with all the other sweets and breads) come in par-baked and frozen, ready for last minute finishing and glazing, or else ship in completely done and ready to sell. Of the latter category, biscotti are by far the most successful items. After all, you can't really make a dense, hard cookie taste or feel any more dried out! Since both my Italian stepfamily and a large contingent of my friends love my homemade biscotti, and I have a longtime love of the "old fashioned" style doughnuts, I figured I would try to blend the two. The secret to my success lay in using home-rendered tallow, which added an ever-so-slightly savoury edge, and tossing in both a heady dose of nutmeg and ground espresso beans for that "cafe" nuance in the back of your mouth. A drizzle of icing capped things off, and they were ready to be packaged for the office - still fresher than the box of doughnuts sharing the table!

    Monday, November 7, 2016

    Russian Cabbage Borscht

    While it's been unseasonably warm here lately, every time I turn to the news the meteorologist unfailingly manages to drop the "winter is coming" bomb. Truth be told, I've already broken into my box of Hot Packs for recesses outside, and a scarf is a more or less permanent article of clothing once again.

    After a long day at work, both inside and out, there's nothing I crave more than a bowl of hearty, healthy comfort food, and thanks to my late-season harvest of Lutz beets, carrots and herbs I knew exactly what I would be making. Mom loves borscht almost as much as I love shredded raw beets (which is, to say, a lot) and there was no better way to "soup up" our week's worth of lunches than to whip up a batch. I started with a Russian recipe from one of our "international" cookbooks that not only used the traditional beets, but shredded red cabbage, tomatoes, onions, celery and carrots too.

    Russian Cabbage Borscht

    The recipe originally called for the veggies to caramelize in bacon fat and oil, but nestled in the back of my fridge was a jar of home-rendered schmaltz - culinary gold for old world recipes like this one! I slowly sauteed the onions in the chicken fat until they were nice and golden, adding the spices so they could cook out alongside. Everything else soon followed, filling the pot with savoury-sweet goodness. The final step called for adding potato dumplings for extra heft, but with the hour getting late I opted instead to raid my freezer and toss in a few handfuls of my Always Fluffy Gnocchi instead. They soaked up the broth equally well, plumping into pillows of delicious starch and turning the spartan soup into a hearty lunch. Paired with a chunk of homemade bread (our current loaf is a rendition of this Lager and Rye Bread), a bowl was perfect to come into the kitchen for.

     The best part? Like almost every other soup on the planet, this just gets better and better. It even freezes well!

    Sunday, November 6, 2016

    Sweet Relish (Toast Topper #75)

    I'm well known around here for my love of all things mustard. Whether I'm using it in a vinaigrette or whisking it into a sauce for roasted veggies, it's always got a spot on my plate. 

    That said, if there's one thing I like as much as mustard, it's sweet relish! What can I say, I love my condiments, and a sweet relish is the perfect pairing to a spicy mustard like Dijon (or my personal favourite, Kozlik's Horseradish). I grew up with the handy-dandy jarred kind, and still use it regularly, but when I was faced with more cucumbers than I cared to pickle, as well as giant zucchinis and plump red peppers, I decided to take a twist on the recipe from from The Canning Kitchen and make a batch myself!

    Sweet Relish

    The resulting relish is full of the usual suspects - cucumbers, peppers, sugar and vinegar, but the zucchini is a great "bulker" and adds extra greenery. The best part was that it made a ton, enough to last me through the winter, and since it cans like a dream I don't have to steal any more fridge space!

    Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

    Sunday, October 30, 2016

    Full of Secrets Chocolate Chip Cookies #SundaySupper

    Since the majority of my waking hours are spent in the company of elementary school children, I'm surrounded by fans of sweets - particularly packaged junk food. I do my best to bring the benefits of homemade treats to my home economics classes, incorporating fresh fruit, less refined sugars, etc., but when holidays like Hallowe'en roll around, all bets are off. We had our annual bake sale fundraiser at our Hallowe'en party again, and in light of the junk food overload we had in the classroom I decided I would do my best to plow through a bunch of it at once, thus reducing the total sugar swings we had to cope with.

    I started with chopping up all the chocolate I could readily get my hands on - Kit Kats, Aeros and Twix for the most part - and tempered their extra sweetness (since I usually use bitter or semisweet) with a few bags of crushed potato chips. Realizing I was low on the requisite margarine (the recipe came from Becel), I tossed in the rest of the amount's worth in cream cheese, followed by a scoop of mayonnaise for the eggs (a trick I picked up from Cupcake Project). Scooped and baked off (without the need to chill, although this worked fine as well with subsequent batches), I was rewarded with the perfect amount of soft, chewy, two-bite cookies laden with pops of sweet, salty and crispy treats. Even better, they were the perfect generation-bridging food thanks to the slight tang of the mayo and cream cheese as well as the dark muscovado sugar, and they disappeared before I got a chance to buy one!

    This week, our #SundaySupper tastemakers have the answer to those who find themselves with too much candy after Halloween. We've got a ton of creative, decadent and (slightly less) spooky Leftover Halloween Candy Recipes waiting for you!








    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.

    Monday, October 24, 2016

    Rhubarb Ginger Sauce

    Rhubarb is the one vegetable I look forward to the most all winter. Even though we haven't even touched the cusp of the freezing, icy season yet, it's been cold enough that we've called the growing season over and done with. After harvesting the last bits and pieces of my backyard project this year, we pulled out all the plants, leaving me nothing outside to look at but a bare, desolate plot of land. Luckily, some of that final harvest was prime for the cooking and eating, not the least my rhubarb and homegrown hot peppers!

    Gingery Rhubarb Sauce

    Rather than make yet another jam or pepper jelly, I decided to go closer to the BBQ sauce route with my produce. Along with balsamic vinegar and two types of unrefined sugar, this rich, sticky-sweet-tart-spicy condiment cooked up fairly quickly for a "sleeper hit" canned gift for the holidays. We enjoyed (multiple) "quality control" taste tests throughout the short cooking process, as well as for a week or so afterwards with the leftovers. Once we started using it, we kept finding ways to mix it into meals - it made its way into homemade burgers, onto roasted broccoli and spooned onto plain boiled rice for a bit of a kick. It may not be the beauty queen of the pantry, but it's definitely one of the workhorses!

    Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

    Sunday, October 23, 2016

    Home Canned Pizza Sauce #SundaySupper

    If you had asked me a few weeks ago, I'd never have been able to tell you there was a whole month dedicated to pizza. Then, thanks to #SundaySupper, I discovered that National Pizza Month was actually established in 1984. As a result, Americans have been using the month of October to celebrate their love of pizza, and what a love it is! Over 3 billion of these cheesy treats are sold yearly in the USA alone, and if I know anything from my experience teaching, a school's pizza day is one of the highlights of the term.

    I love a good pie as much as the next person (albeit my tastes lean more towards the more sauce / no mozz and tons of veggies side), but as a family we reserved pizza take out for birthday parties and maybe one or two times a year when we had a late night for a school function. After going to cooking school (and living on my own for the first time), I came to appreciate the power that a well-made sauce had to elevate everything from slow-risen, whole grain flatbreads to even the simplest pizza dough. I started off by sauce-making experiences with the most basic, single-serving and - gasp - ketchup based mixture, which is still perfectly delicious in it's own right. With my home ec classes, I step up the sauce creation a little bit, using a tomato paste-fortified mixture laden with a few key spices and herbs, which gives our pies a perfect kid-friendly flavour with just enough authenticity to show them there's something beyond the jar or the 27-cheese monstrosities they can order for delivery.

    Pizza night will never be the same after tasting your own homemade pizza sauce! #yum #vegan #vegetarian #cooking #healthyfood #foodie #instafood #homegrown #canning #preserving #growyourown #garden #vegetables #yummy #healthy #food #foodstagram #vegetaria

    This year in my canning melee, I decided that I would try my hand at making pizza sauce 100% from scratch, with real tomatoes and garden-fresh garlic and herbs. I had Jami's recipe as a guide, which gave me the tip of freezing and thawing the tomatoes first to remove excess liquid (one of the reasons I have gallon bags of tomatoes hanging in the freezer as we speak) and the whole thing came together easily once everything was in the pot. I won't say it was quick, because as with most homemade tomato sauces the slower and lower they cook, the better, but I will say that the time was more than worth it. Not only does the sauce can and freeze well, but I can vouch for the fact that the sauce that didn't make it into jars turned into a divine dipper for garlic pita and everything bagel chips.

    This week, the #SundaySupper team is pulling out our best pizza recipes to fill your belly with deliciousness. We’ve got everything from traditional pizzas to dessert pies, and some pizza inspired sandwiches and salads.  Join us on Twitter tonight at 7pm where we’ll be talking all things pizza and sharing our best pizza recipes.










    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.