Monday, March 28, 2016

Gluten and Dairy Free Hot Cross Buns

Do you follow the tradition of eating hot cross buns at Easter? The spicy, fruit packed yeast rolls are a favourite of my dad's and were a staple in our kitchen from the beginning of March all the way through April, when they disappeared for another year. I liked the spicy flavours and the raisins, but never got onto the "candied fruit" bandwagon, so I just stopped bothering to buy and eat them as an adult!

Now, the original recipe is obviously rich, decadent, and made with wheat flour - since this past week saw be being tested for Celiac (and since I've had numerous issues even working with wheat flour), I decided I'd take our "recipe box" formula and try out a gluten free, dairy free variation and see how it went.

All things considered, I think these are pretty darn delicious - packed with raisins, currants, Craisins (and even the prerequisite candied fruit) that all marry with sweet, warming spice is kind of hard to go wrong with! My flour blend for these also included the sweet richness of chestnut flour and my current favourite sweetener jaggery, which added an "old style" flavour to the mixture. The traditional flour-water cross overtop got a touch of sugar and almond extract for extra oomph, and the whole shebang was glazed with chestnut honey right out of the oven. The honey also helped to keep everything moist for a while, since these gluten-free rolls generally don’t stay moist for too long (about 2 days, tops). That said, leftovers (and even fresh buns) are excellent split, toasted and topped with honey or vegan butter!

Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns

Now, forewarning: these buns took a long time to proof - and I'm still not sure they poofed all the way - but the two 2-hour waits were beyond worth it for me.  I can't even begin to explain how DELICIOUS these are! Candied fruit and all!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Rosemary and Olive Grissini #SundaySupper

I have a confession.

I almost never watch movies. In particular, I never willingly watch romantic comedies, especially if they're in the theatres. For my $15 (not counting concessions), I'll take James Bond, Tim Burton or Star Wars way before settling in for 2+ hours of boy-meets-girl / boy-loses-girl / boy-gets-girl semi-storylines. Even then, I'm hard pressed to focus that long on anything (I can barely watch a half hour TV show) so most of the time I skip the theatres entirely and catch up on the Coles Notes version while waiting for it to come out on the free On Demand cable channels.

That said, I'm still excited for this week's #SundaySupper theme - My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 - because I love Greek food, and definitely love partying Greek style! Our group is combining Hellenic inspired dishes to create a feast of Olympic proportions - whether its to remember and join the re-union celebration of Toula and Ian or simply revel in the rich, healthy flavours of the Mediterranean.

Black Olive and Rosemary Grissini

My contribution to the dinner feast is this recipe for grissini - skinny, crunchy breadsticks that are perfect for an appetizer, snack or accompaniment to a simple Mediterranean meal. They are incredibly easy to put together, and are packed with the bright, vibrant flavour of fresh rosemary and the briny richness of both Kalamata and sun-dried olives, which mingle with the slight nuttiness of the whole wheat flour to make a satisfying, well-keeping snack that not only stands up on its own but pairs beautifully with dips like baba ghanoush or hummus. For cocktail or dinner parties where they're being used as pre-meal nibbles, a grating of fresh Parmesan on top before baking adds an extra "gourmet" twist - but even without that extra garnish I dare you to try stopping at one. If you're anything like my coworker - who claims he's not a "bread guy" in general - you'll find yourself missing more than a few before the end of the day due to "quality control" checks!

This #SundaySupper event is hosted by Nichole Crews from Casa de Crews. Thanks Nichole!

Greek Appetizers:

Greek Soups:

Greek Breakfast:

Greek Main Dishes:

Greek Side Dishes:

Greek Desserts:

Greek Beverages:

Plus Baked Shrimp with Feta plus More Greek Cuisine from Sunday Supper Movement

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, March 25, 2016

Uber Ginger Cookies

Ginger cookies are one of those "love it or hate it" treats that seems to show up on cookie trays all year. I used to think they were a "Christmas only" special (thinking of gingerbread houses + men), but just because the shapes aren't popular in July doesn't mean the flavours aren't! Ginger has one of those properties of being able to heat you up or refresh you, depending on it's form and application, so it gets heavy play in my kitchen all year. Of course, I'm spoiled when it comes to willing gingerphile tastebuds around here too, so I'm always looking for ways to "up the ante" when it comes to my baking.

I think, though, that I've hit the apex of the ginger cookie curve with these beauties. Not only are these packed with ground ginger and TWO hits of the fresh rhizome, but I went ahead and rolled the sticky batter in instant ginger-honey granules, snickerdoodle-style, before baking them off. The resulting cookies, which got a tender chew from golden syrup, molasses and apple butter, offer pops of vibrant sweet-spicy flavour with every bite. They're rather "moreish" as well, their texture mimicking that of my favourite Lassy Mogs while their taste reminds me of the cookies we used to get right from the bakery by my grandparent's house. While I can't see myself having a glass of milk with them, a frosty ginger ale? You bet!

Uber Ginger Cookies

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Strawberry Papaya Jam: Toast Topper #67 #thereciperedux

There's no getting around it - our family loves jam. Whether it's peach, lime, persimmon or bluebarb, the plethora of Toast Topper I've posted (and the even greater number of general condiments) should indicate that we can't leave a piece of bread (or waffle, or pancake...) undecorated - even filled ones like the Figgy Olive Oil and Sesame Challah - untouched. No, we need a spread to crown our carbs, but by and large we find the standard jars from the store well... standard. You just don't find flavours like the ones I mentioned at the local grocery store here, and the jams and jellies you do find are often packed with sugar or (in the case of the so-sugar-added ones) artificial sweeteners.

That said, jam doesn't have to be like that - nor does it need to be a super-complex, multi-pot, 47-jar canning bonanza (though I have nothing against that!). Last post, I mentioned how you needed sugar to activate the pectin in standard recipes, but luckily today there are varieties of pectin requiring less (or no) sugar at all to work, as well as a couple other options like agar, gelatin and, what I partially relied on here, chia seeds. Back last June, I made No-Cook Berry Chia Jam using the incredible gelling properties of the seeds to great effect. This time, I used them as an accessory thickener - a fail-safe, if you will - since the fresh papaya in the jam can sometimes wreak havoc with the jamming process (thanks enzymes!). With the extra help, and natural sweetness from the tropical fruit, it turns out that cooking up a healthy and delicious Toast Topper with fresh fruit and coconut water is not only easy, but fast - and you won't miss the refined sugar either - promise!

This Recipe Redux has out gang whipping up no-brainer dishes with "7 or fewer" ingredients in honour of tax season. As a lover of spice (and flour) medleys, it was tough, but yummy experimenting!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Black Currant and Wine Jelly Toast Topper #66

I'll admit that when it comes to making jam and jelly, I'm a slave to added pectin. I know there are times when I don't need it (Backyard Grape Jam, for instance) thanks to the natural pectin in the fruit, and if I'm making a full-sugar preserve as written (like this Blood Orange and Cranberry Marmalade) I will abstain.

The problem for me is that to activate the pectin, you need sugar. And a lot of it. Since the whole point of me making jam at home (well, one of the points) is to make a healthier Toast Topper for the pantry, adding a bucket of sugar to a recipe doesn't really compute. That said, I'm always learning! I've discovered agar and gelatin do a bang-up gelling job, and recently I discovered a technique in Miyoko Schinner's book The Homemade Vegan Pantry that relies on the power of both reduction and arrowroot starch to solidify the spread.

Black Currant and Primitivo Wine Jam

Now, this isn't a "jelly-like" condiment like what you'd normally find on the shelf, but a slightly thicker-than-apple butter spread. Regardless of what you call it though, the combination of currant juice and "Doppio Passo" wine reduces to a semi-sweet, mellow, elegantly flavoured syrup, which I added dried currants to for contrasting texture and more of a "jam like" feel.  A bit of sweet blood orange juice helped cut down the need for extra sugar and heightened the fruity notes in both wine and juice. The recipe is still somewhat high in sugar by my standards, but the tartness of the currants and the tannins in the wine need it - you want to enjoy your healthier spread, after all!

While I didn't can my jelly (it disappeared too fast!) the cookbook says you can waterbath can it. I'm not too sure what the standards are for starch-thickened recipes, so I suggest storing this in the fridge and making small batches as needed!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Friday, March 18, 2016

Mulled Wine Apple Crisps

Its funny - as the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, I've been finding myself craving warmer, spicier and more "comfort food" type dishes rather than the lighter, "brighter" fare so associated with Summer. I've always enjoyed a good, crisp salad as the basis of my lunch, but come dinner, I want the slow-cooked beans, rices, curries and soups. Dessert is no different - I've reverted to enjoying a bowl of chocolatey porridge and a warm cashew-milk mocha more than something like sorbet or my homemade tofu ice cream.

I've been missing my mom's apple desserts lately too - her Harvest Apple Squares have long since fallen off the menu (mostly due to their high sugar content, which my diabetic stepdad can't cope with), and since the family in general doesn't groove on casseroles of bottomless crisps, only the occasional pie makes it out of the freezer for our enjoyment. I used to think crisps were rather "blah" myself - preferring the hearty, buttery oat crust on the squares - but once scaling the dish into individual portions I've changed my tune. When baked in single-serving jars, not only does the combination of fruit and crumble look gorgeous, but you get more crispy bits overall - instant win! The only thing I had to tweak from my mom's "chop and drop" method of crisp making was pre-cooking the fruit slightly - and what better step could I use to really infuse some flavour?

Before I even got to the cooking step, I was faced with a small dilemma. I had bought 7 apples in preparation for making these jars of awesome, but somehow they got mixed in with "communal eating" apples in the fridge. By the time baking day arrived, my stash was down to 4 - not critical mass, but I needed something to bulk up the batch. Luckily, I had one of the most "apple" like vegetables I could think of sitting in the crisper - chayote squash. They are perfectky crisp, slightly sweet and hold their shape similarly to apples, and I knew that once they cooked together with the spices and an oaty topping nobody would be the wiser. Thinking of overall flavouring, I was mostly inspired by a small bottle of mulled apple cider left over from a weekend brunch, plus a bottle of Doppio Passo Botter Primitivo Salento IGT that I had received as a gift a while back and had never opened (I don't drink). Why not make a mulled wine and simmer the fruit in that? It would not only add a gorgeous flavour, but tint everything as well. I decided to give it a shot!

Mulled Red Wine Apple Crisps

The wine, spices and a touch of sweetener smelled like all sorts of comfort and joy as it heated, which only intensified as the fruit began to cook. I wanted this filling to really be the star of the crisp after that, so instead of the usual butter/flour/oat topping, I opted for a neutral oil, two forms of oats, nutty kinako and just a touch of Truvia Brown Sugar Blend instead. Nobody noticed the difference, but everyone commented on the complexity of the filling underneath, which makes me think about trying the method again but turning the works into applesauce!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Belgian Chocolate Bread Pudding

Well, it's been a while since I've talked about bread pudding (you know, a whole month), so I figured I'd share the latest (and hopefully for our waistlines, the last for a while) variation on the theme that my Home Ec class and I created. In the spirit of the "Europe" unit I was covering in our "eating around the world" series, I drew on Belgium again, not only utilizing their invention of bread pudding as a whole but their love for (and definite ability to make) chocolate.

With the exception of maybe two or three of the kids in class, chocolate is the great equalizer between the ages, backgrounds and outside interests of the 33 youngsters - and being relatively young, their palates are still sensitive enough to develop appreciation for the nuances in different brands, percentages and forms of one of my favourite foods. In fact, a few of them truly impressed me by rejecting "milk chocolate candy" (i.e. your typical convenience store bars) in favour of higher-cacao bittersweet couverture callets and even squares of 72% Ghirardelli. 
#chocolate bread pudding for #breakfast? Don't mind if I do...
Muffin version - not nearly as gooey and rich

Bread pudding is definitely a great recipe to make with kids in general - first off, they get to tear the proverbial snot out of stale bread, something that even as an adult I enjoy doing (bonus if it's Challah, since the plaits make for perfect handholds). They get to whisk eggs (again, another magical activity I enjoy as an adult), squish in the bread and watch as the whole mixture turns from liquid | solid to one relatively firm, moist mass. The worst part for everyone involved (kids or adults!) is the waiting. First the 15 minutes before the pan goes into the oven, then another 40 while it slowly bakes to delicious, almost brownie-like perfection and a final 10 before being able to dig in. Yes, it's seen as a form of torture by some of the sweet teeth among us - but oh, the reward! Especially when you get a bite with a nugget of semi-molten chocolate. The only thing that would make it better is a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top!  

Belgian Chocolate Bread Pudding
Ooey, gooey and perfect hot or cold!

As if I needed further proof this was a keeper, many of the kids (even ones who gave me the "oogie look" while we made the recipe) continued to talk about making and eating "those chocolate brownies" for weeks after the class. Hey, if brownies sells them, I'm in!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Chocolate Malt Ball Muffins

Malt and chocolate is a fairly polarizing combination. Some, like my mom and I, love the slight tang and "toasted grain" flavour with a good chocolate (milk or dark!). Others, like my sister and a couple of my friends, want nothing to do with that flavour pairing at all. Maltesers (or Whoppers) are still a favourite stocking stuffer of my mom's (right up there with anything chocolate and orange), and the taste of one reminds me of both her and my grandpa, who would occasionally share in our treats! One thing I discovered in university was chocolate-malt beer, which, when paired with a scoop of caramel ice cream or gelato (weird, I know) was a perfect dessert and after dinner drink in one!

Of course, when I found myself with a few Valentine's Day leftovers - namely an uber chocolatey cookie and a Malteser chocolate bar that I didn't even know existed, I wanted to see if I could push the whole chocolate-malt combo to the max. I picked muffins as the vehicle for this mashup, mostly because they're almost impossible to screw up and besides, how can you say "no" to a muffin? The mixture started with a basic chocolate muffin recipe, which turned into a spelt-flour "catch-all" treat using the last dribbles of milk, homemade condensed milk, morning-old coffee and molasses along with the crumbled cookie bits and the chocolate bar.  Moist, rich and just slightly malted, they appealed to everyone I offered them to, polarizing be darned!

Chocolate Malt Ball Muffins

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Spicy Thai Tofu Curry

Thanks to March Break, I've been able to get into the kitchen more than before - something I've truly missed! Of course, the first thing on the docket was a batch of homemade lunches for my mom, who is currently caring for my grandma, planning birthday parties, preparing to move my sister home from college and hosting a part-time boarder in the basement. With Easter (as well as the aforementioned parties) coming up, we were all in the mood for something light on the stomach and wallet that was still soul satisfying and warm. Flipping through my copy of Vegetarian Comfort Foods by Jennifer Browne , I spotted the perfect solution: a Thai-inspired tofu curry.

The recipe was relatively Spartan as written, without much in the way of Asian flavours or a vegetable medley. Those paltry issues were solved with an open-minded trip to the Asian grocery store, where I managed to pick up a wealth of cheap, high quality produce as well as the tofu, coconut products and spices I wanted. Given that curry is so versatile, you could certainly use your favourite veggies from the supermarket - I just wanted to see what I could find, not to mention save money on (our Asian grocer is reliably lower-priced for the same, if not better, quality when it comes to produce, meat and seafood).

I also had a few aces up my sleeve for enhancing the flavours in this stew - the first was a spoonful of Litehouse Freeze Dried Lemongrass - one of the three bottles of the freeze-dried herbs sent to me by the company, and definitely the most unique one of the bunch. With a fairly lengthy simmer time, the dried pieces softened and flavoured the mixture without any woodiness - something that couldn't be said for quick marinades or stir fry sauces. As an aside, the salad herbs and red onion are DELICIOUS and have no preparation needed.

Litehouse Foods Instantly Fresh™ Lemongrass

My second secret to taming the relatively spicy body of the curry was to use a mixture of sweet starches in addition to the bland tofu and a ton of other veggies. On one of my regular trips to the Asian market, I picked up an Oriental yam and an Okinawan Sweet Potato, and paired them with one of the last Delicata squash I had at home. The light, slightly earthy sweetness buffered the sharp spice of the chile powder and serrano, but stayed mild enough for the brightness of the spinach, green peppers and snow peas to cut through the rich coconut cream.

Sweet Starches
L-R: Delicata squash, Oriental yam / Japanese sweet potato, Okinawan Sweet Potato

Mixing the coconut cream with coconut water and cashew milk created the perfect body for the stew as well - not too thick or thin, with the needed richness but enough fluidity that you don't feel like you just ate porridge or rice pudding for dinner. The cubes of tofu soak up the spice just enough that you get a little "pop" with each bite, and the whole thing livens up a plain bowl of rice both in flavour and nutrition! The best part for us was that it freezes fairly well too - so for families like ours, who eat at a myriad of times throughout the day, it's easy to pull out a single-serving container (and some frozen cooked rice!) and reheat it when you don't feel like cooking for one.

Spicy Thai Tofu Curry

Monday, March 14, 2016

Persimmon Ketchup

Have you ever had a persimmon? I've occasionally enjoyed, and certainly cooked with, the nutritious fruit, but always with a sweet persuasion. I personally enjoy the vanilla persimmons, so I guess that's why the habit (and my perception of what "fruit" should be) evolved. I knew they were delicious fresh or dried, but when I was flipping through the LCBO magazine over the holidays I came across a new twist - persimmon ketchup!

Now, I'm not a huge ketchup eater anyways, but I do have a sister who "puts ketchup on her ketchup", so to speak. I wanted to see if this version of the condiment, made with the persimmons and pumpkin puree, would taste of anything close to Heinz - or if it was the name given to the sauce consistency (like mushroom, beet/carrot or banana ketchup. After tasting it warm right from the pot, I definitely detected a hint of fruitiness, but once it cooled down and sat overnight in the fridge it became a relatively convincing (tomato) ketchup clone - the perfect balance of sweet, spicy, tangy and thick. While the colour will tip off anyone (unless you add dye to it), it's delicious as is - not to mention gluten, egg, dairy, refined sugar and soy free!

Persimmon Ketchup

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Rise and Shine Power Cookies

Sometimes nothing "traditional" quite cuts it for breakfast... cereal, waffles, toast, even scrambled eggs and bacon don't seem to sit right, especially if you (like me) start work early and your digestion doesn't seem to wake up until about 10:30! Rather than packing a baggie of plain dry cereal (as a meal, mind you - I eat plenty of Nature's Path Envirokidz Cinnamon Jungle Munch® Cereal by the handful when I'm peckish), why not opt for something just as portable and convenient, yet more substantial (and definitely "sweet tooth" satisfying)?

While playing around with some of the goodies Nature's Path sent me a while ago, I came up with a cookie that, for me and many of the people I shared it with, is the perfect "bring along breakfast" solution. Normally, you'd never see a nutritionist advocating cookies for breakfast - and I'm not saying these should be for every day of the week, but having one in my lunchbox for those days when I wake up late (!) or am otherwise rushing around allows me to still have a balanced protein / complex carb meal at my leisure. Gluten and dairy free, they're also great for sharing (which is what I did at the Rise Up And Shine II Plan Canada Dance Fitness Fundraiser) last month, and my most recent experiments making them with flaxseed and Homemade Egg Replacer were successful too - meaning these could be (almost) vegan as is, and fully vegan using a vegan granola and either agave or maple syrup for the honey.

Rise and Shine Power Cookies

However you slice (drop?) it, these gigantic, gluten free cookies are 100% a meal in themselves - packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, fibre and healthy fats, not much in the way of added sweetener, and a delicious hearty texture from the Qi'a and Honey Almond Granola. If you're like some of my gym instructors, you'll enjoy grabbing one to eat after your sunrise bootcamp (and before your next training session), whereas sleepy-eyed students can tuck in at school while their parents nosh on their way to the office. Wherever you enjoy them, they are a delicious way to stay full and energized till lunch!  

Rise and Shine Power Cookies

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Four - Chocolate Sour Cream Quickbread #BreadBakers

You're not likely to find me without some form of chocolate in my diet every day. Whether it's a scoop of cocoa in my oats, a luxurious square from a high-quality, imported bittersweet tablet or even a cup of coffee brewed with a spoonful of cacao nibs in with the grounds (try it, it is DELICIOUS), the humble bean is firmly lodged in my brain's "favourites folder". Even better than simple bar chocolate (if that's possible!) is the fudginess of a good brownie or dense chocolate cake - preferably with a hint of nuttiness or tang (such as from peanut butter or cream cheese) to break up the dark, bittersweet notes of high-cacao chocolate.

GF and Eggless Four-Chocolate Sour Cream Loaf Cake

That's where this luxurious quickbread factors in. Not only does chocolate come in four forms (cocoa, cacao nibs, chocolate covered peanuts and chocolate chips), but it gets a fudgy, slightly tangy body from sour cream, extra nuttiness and everlasting moisture from chia seeds and a welcome peppering of crunch from chocolate-covered peanuts. It's one heck of a package - and all in a gluten free eggless wrapping too! I even took some of this to a friend of mine for their birthday, and they devoured it without even contemplating it's dietary status. For a real treat (a la the restaurant dessert menu), warm up a slice in an individual baking dish in the oven and top with a scoop of ice cream. Heaven!

BreadBakers#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, we're featuring breads with cocoa, cacao or carob in any form.

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

Check out all the chocolatey goodness we're serving up!

    GF and Eggless Four-Chocolate Sour Cream Loaf Cake
    Also shared with Gluten Free Fridays

    Sunday, March 6, 2016

    Chocolate Carrot & Squash Muffins #SundaySupper

    The Sunday Supper family is singing the praises of naturally sweet, earthy, comforting root vegetables this week - whether they're being roasted, fried, pureed, shredded, spiralized or baked. Not only are root veggies inherently versatile (fitting in just fine in either sweet or savoury recipes), they're generally cheap and long lasting - a huge plus for those of us with less than generous incomes and a myriad of other expenses to contend with! I personally love the world of roots because they last so long - feeding only myself, I can still buy a bag of potatoes, onions, carrots or beets and finish it before they go bad - not something I can say for leafy greens, bean sprouts or mushrooms!

    Carrot-Zucchini-Apple Muffins

    Obviously, being the baking fiend that I am, I used this week's theme to play around in the sweet kitchen - eventually devising a muffin recipe that was both nutritionally dense and sweet enough to appeal to the kids in my grade 4-5 Home Ec class. The best part about making these muffins with a gang of kids is that they all get a chance to do something relatively "physical" along the way. After all, there are three things that need grating, eggs to beat, cocoa to sift, batter to scoop and sugar to sprinkle! Don't be discouraged if the younger set are somewhat vocal in their opposition to the shredded produce, either - I had 14 vehement protesters convert to raving fans within a half hour (including our infamously veggie-phobic principal). What can I say, chocolate conquers all, and the fine shred on the fruit and veggies allows them to melt into invisible, ever so slightly sweet, everbearingly moist additions.

    Check out all our "rootin' tootin'" recipes below:






    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.