Sunday, July 31, 2016

Gumdrop Cookies #SundaySupper Kids!

Kids rule this #SundaySupper! 

Working with a gaggle and a half of children Monday to Friday, I like to think that I can (more or less) forecast their reactions when it comes to certain foods. Am I always right? Not a chance - Kheer, for example, won over 3/4 of the gang, but some of the younger ones I thought for sure would be fans of the warm, creamy concoction refused to eat more than a single bite. Then there was Jamaican “No-Beef” Patties, which no kid-lit cookbook author would dream of including in their next best-seller, yet have garnered more than one request for a repeat. I guess children are nothing if unpredictable!
Gumdrop Cookies

That said, I have yet to meet a child of any age (including fully grown!) who would pass up a cookie. And honestly, what could be better than a cookie for this occasion? How about a tender, melt in your mouth, vegan cookie packed with jujubes that you can slice and bake at a moment's notice? Yup, these cookies get a meltaway-like texture thanks to vegan cream cheese, oat flour and coconut flour that is just sturdy enough to encapsulate chewy. chopped up jujubes. I made a double batch of these last year at Christmastime and stored it in the freezer (packed into wax-paper-lined paper towel tubes), periodically pushing out and slicing the perfect amount I needed for whatever occasion I was baking for. Just call them cookies for the 5-second-baby set! 

What do our kids (or the kids in your life) like to eat? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to check out the other offerings for this event hosted by Ellen of Family Around The Table



Main Dish


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.

Sunday Supper Movement

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

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Double Chocolate Butter "Bean" Cream

Creamy, rich and thick frosting is the hallmark of many a great cake. My sister vehemently states that generously applying a coat of it will make any cake (box or scratch) worth eating - provided of course, that said frosting is chocolate. Frosting's nutritional benefits are not normally an issue - normally. However, the passion for the stuff some people I know (read: my little sister and most of my Home Ec classes) means I tend to pay a little bit of mind with regards to ingredients and attempt portion control! Obviously, frosting (or sweetened chocolate) are nowhere near "health food" material, and while there are some "low fat" and "sugar free" versions out there they are a little... iffy... on the flavour and texture front. 

Chocolate Cannellini Frosting

Interestingly enough, while most of the kids I teach are good with anything sweet, there are a handful that are so anti-chocolate that whenever we do a cake-decorating lesson I make either my
French Vanilla Frosting or Super Vanilla Frosting just to avoid the argument. When I come home with leftover cake (but vanilla frosting), I'm whined at that there's no chocolate to put on it and the frosting (and cake) in question almost always turn into cake balls. One too many batches of cake balls later, I was re-organizing my Recipe Index and came across my Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip - which was a major hit with both young and old. The recipe made me think that if I can make a bland bean like a cannellini taste like cookie dough, why couldn't I use them to stretch out frosting?

I knew I'd have to add the chocolatey flavour my sister loves so much, so along with the beans, I tossed in some rich cocoa powder, chocolate extract and couverture callets. The mixture was softer than "canned" frosting right out of the processor, but once chilled overnight it was 100% the perfect consistency for topping (and filling!) cupcakes as well as making the centres of the resulting Aquafaba Meringues sing!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Monday, July 25, 2016

Scrambled Tofu Collard Wraps

I confess I am not a real "egg" person. I was never somebody who could sit down to a breakfast of toast and scrambled eggs in the morning, nor would I hanker for an Eggs Benedict when we'd go out for brunch. In general, I was (and guess, still am) very specific about my eggs - crispy, crusty bottom, ideally omelette or sunny-side up, and there had better be something else too. When I became allergic to egg yolk, I didn't mourn it too badly, since I hadn't eaten a "proper" egg in ages anyways.

Scrambled Tofu Collard Wraps

I think it's because of my anti-egg mindset that I didn't even bother with the idea of scrambled tofu. When my friend dropped off a bunch of veggies to us in exchange for the fruits of my A Study in Apple Pie, I was mowing through all of them but the collard greens. I've never really cooked with them before, but knew they made pretty good wrappers for things. As fate would have it, I received an email the next day about breakfast wraps using tortillas layered with collard greens, bacon, red pepper and scrambled eggs. Well, I'm not super passionate about breakfast, but the idea of a dinnertime wrap appealed to me and for some reason it sparked a craving for something eggy - just not eggs.

Since I had a block of silken tofu in the pantry (love those Tetra-Paks), I started googling ways to use it like eggs. A couple hours of research and a dive into DIY Vegan later I had something I was willing to try out, and since then I've become a non-egg egg convert!

One of the key ingredients in the Savoury Egg Mixture is something called kala namak. It's a Himalayan sea salt that is naturally infused with sulfuric compounds (like the hot springs and sulfur pools in Western Canada and the US) and when used, adds a distinctive "cooked egg" flavour to whatever it's sprinkled on. It not only makes great tofu scrambles, but it also elevates less-than-ripe tomato slices and slices of cucumber too

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Adults-Only Chocolate Orange Sauce

As a "grown up", I've gotten used to the fact that some things I could get away with eating as a kid would raise more than a few eyebrows if I tried it now. Spoonfuls of Nutella and/or peanut butter out of the jar, frozen McDonalds french fries (don't know why my mom used to freeze them but they were so good), corn syrup on toast and tubes of raw cookie dough shared amongst my closest friend all come to mind - along with the reminder that there was a reason I topped 200 pounds in my early teen years. Moderation was preached at home, but when left to my own teenage devices it left the building entirely. 

Adults - Only Chocolate Sauce

One of the other goodies I used to be able to get regularly at the local Tim Hortons was cups of chocolate milk - we're talking the fountain-drink cups here, with a Large running at 24oz of cold, rich tasting, sweet dairy. With the evolution of the menu (and inevitable price increases for "real" food and skilled labour), the fountain-style chocolate milk disappeared and was replaced with the cartons, just as "freshly made" doughnuts transformed into pre-baked, frozen pucks that are reheated and glazed on site. While carton-style chocolate milk wasn't the worst thing in the world (and was certainly better than Quik powder), it didn't quit have the same indulgent feel going for it. When I stopped being able to drink "regular" milk, I started experimenting with a few variations of chocolate pastes, syrups and sauces added to various non-dairy milks - partially to cover up any off flavours and/or textures (looking at you, off-label soy milk and most rice milks) and partially to see if I could get anything to taste similar to what I remembered, dairy or non. 

Luckily, adulthood brought with it the freedom to experiment with extra flavour options, and I took a leaf out of my mom's "chocolate-orange love" book when I came up with this beauty. The first and foremost flavour in this just-thick-enough syrup is definitely bittersweet chocolate - so much so that the milk chocoholics out there will probably shy away from licking the spoon (more for us!). However, a lingering, ever-so-subtle whisper of orange creeps in afterwards thanks to a hint of Grand Marnier. It's not cooked out, hence the "adults only" moniker, but it is definitely a throwback to after-school snacks as a kid. The syrup is just thick enough to make for an artistic drizzle over cake, ice cream or fruit, but my personal favourite is to add a shot to a (cashew milk) caffe latte for a wicked twist on a hot mocha. I've yet to test it out on the heavier drinkers here making cocktails though - let me know what your favourite would be!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Peppery Strawbarb Blossom Jam Toast Topper #69

Strawberry and rhubarb jam has, I believe, become my new favourite flavour of Toast Topper. I'm not an overly sweet person when it comes to fruit (I love tart cherries and raspberries, for example), especially in the summer when it's a billion degrees out. Luckily, our garden is bursting with rhubarb, which tempers the saccharine nature of the perfect local berries finally making it to market. 

Peppery Strawbarb Blossom Jam

Of course, it is jam we're talking about, and when I make preserves for holiday gift giving, the sugar does play a certain role in that respect. Most pectin demands sugar to work, and while I'm always playing with low-sugar options like Pomona's and Ball's, but sometimes having the convenience of perfectly proportioned ingredients trumps fancy-dancy fine tooling. Since I can a lot of things at a time to conserve energy (water bath canners take forever to heat up!), by jam #4 I'm getting ready to call it a day. Not willing to toss the ingredients into the freezer for another day, thereby admitting defeat, I pulled out one of my fail-safe jamming secrets when time is short - sugar with pectin already added and mixed in. Using the bag of that set up a ton of strawberries and rhubarb, and thanks to the natural thickening properties of rhubarb, the mix gelled more than the directions say it will (meaning less sugar per serving!). 

Since it still seemed a bit too sweet for my taste, and mom loves the combination of strawberries and black pepper, I chopped up a handful of my beautiful, zippy homegrown nasturtium blossoms and tossed them in with a dash of white pepper for interest! The floral peppery-ness really amps up the fresh flavours of the berries, and is definitely something I will continue to do!

Are you a fan of savoury and sweet combinations (like pepper and strawberries)?

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Banana Chocolate Chip Bars #CreativeCookieExchange

Wow. I don't know what's happened to my brain these days, but I am all out of focusing power. Since I have the summer "off" (fellow teachers know that's a huge lie), I've been stuck in the mentality that I'm "multitasking" during the day when in reality I'm doing a lot of things and getting none of them done. It's been hot as blazes the past week or so too, meaning that the oven is off 90% of the time (which also saves us on energy costs), whatever fruit I glean from the farmers market with the eventual goal of turning into jam is banished to the freezer, and the ice cube trays are getting a workout. That said, I have learned that frozen lemon slices are perfect for chilling large cups of water, T-shirts make great re-usable shopping bags, a pair of socks can turn into an owl and I'm better at altering clothing than I thought.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bars

Normally at this time of year I'd also be regaling you with stories about the garden's glorious bounty. While the produce and herbs are coming along perfectly fine themselves, we unfortunately have attracted a family or two of voles, which have decimated all my early harvest lettuce, kale, heirloom peppers and some of my prized heirloom tomatoes. Until those pests are under control for good, I've decided to patrol my little plot every morning, filling in holes and mourning my losses. Needless to say, this year's haul might be somewhat spartan, and this realization has slightly deadened my usual drive to live the kitchen, heat be damned.

What has convinced me to crank up the oven lately are the almost weekly BBQ cookouts my family has. Voles aside, we have a spacious, well taken care of and (if I say so myself) rather pretty backyard, and now that our gazebo is once again securely anchored and screened in after an early season windstorm, it's a decently comfortable location for a small group to dine. While mom takes care of making the burgers, corn, salads and fruit trays, she's often too pressed for time to think about a secondary dessert option. I'm not saying fruit isn't a good Summer sweet, but one can only have so many slices of watermelon in an afternoon, and when there are kids involved you know eventually one of them is going to pine for "real dessert"! 

Chocolate Chip Banana Bars

In the interest of pleasing both the sweet teeth of all our guests as well as the goals of many of the adults to stay svelte this season (and their desire to limit the kids' sugar consumption) I devised these thin, cake-like banana bars. Essentially squares of indulgent chocolate-chip banana bread, they get a dense crumb and light tang from cream cheese that makes them perfect for a backyard BBQ or picnic lunch. The recipe makes a big pan's worth and freezes beautifully, making the most of your oven time in the midst of the summer heat. With all the chocolate chips peppered throughout, you'd never suspect they were vegan, nut free and full of fibre from oats and whole wheat. If you need to dress it up, just spoon over a handful of seasonal berries and grab a fork! 

For #CreativeCookieExchange this month, we've decided that cheese makes everything better - even cookies! Sweet or savoury, you can find all sorts of inspiration here!

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!

If you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Blue Raspberry Chia Jam: Toast Topper #68

Sometimes the simplest things are the most delicious. Around here, especially in the height of summer, our table sings with the bounty of both our backyard and the local farms that sell on the market days. It's a time that flies by way too fast in my opinion, since it seems like only yesterday I was hauling my first load of rhubarb from and planting my tomato seedlings in the garden, and now we're halfway through July!

Anyways, my latest foray into the farmer's market netted me with two boxes of wild Ontario blueberries, which (after careful taste testing!) were carefully stashed away from prying fingers. I had picked up a bag of frozen Ontario raspberries the week before, and had been grabbing the occasional handful right out of the freezer after a few hours in the 35C heat in our backyard, and it occurred to me to combine the two fruits in a lightly sweetened, lightning-fast Toast Topper. After all, we had a fresh loaf of Pain au Levain to gild!

Blue-Raspberry Chia Jam

I'm not kidding, either, when I say this recipe is an exercise in simplicity - or frugality. It can be as easily made in the dead of winter with frozen berries as in the height of summer with fresh, and doesn't contain any added sugar - the minimal boost in sweetness for this batch came from a boiled apple syrup I cooked down from fresh juice and tempered with added lemon juice and zest. To thicken the medley of berries, a dose of chia seeds went to work, making for a spread that is not so stiff that you have to cut through it with a knife (yech!) but thick enough not to run off your bagel in the morning. While the mixture is less alien today than a year or two ago when the chia craze first hit, I've still yet to find many people (outside of my Home Ec classes!) that have truly tasted it like this. Hopefully this recipe will spark another group of eager eaters!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Pain au Levain avec Banane #BreadBakers

Pain of whatnow?

Relax, the fancy-schmancy French name I gave the hearty, crusty boule made for this month's #BreadBakers event simply means Banana Sourdough. There's only six ingredients - five if you don't count water - and there's no added sugar at all. All the sweetness comes from the namesake fruit, and in lieu of added butter or oil, a scoop of all natural cashew butter adds the "peanut butter and banana sandwich" nuance along with everlasting moisture.

Pain au Levain avec Banane et Blé Entier

Of course, sourdough anything, regardless of the sweetener or fat used, is usually far from being a mindless pursuit. There's a starter to maintain (sort of... mine pretty much lives in the fridge unless I decide to bake one morning), baking stones to heat in the oven, and hours upon hours to wait for each rise. I'm not denying these steps exist with this loaf, either. They do - from almost a full day, followed by an overnight, rise as well as multiple stretch-and-folds in place of a one-shot knead. However, all this fuss and time allows the relatively heavy dough to strengthen, rise and eventually shape nicely into it's final round.

Looking at it, of course, it's not impressive. In fact, the perfectly baked loaf is pedestrian at best, not large or beautifully embellished with washes, score marks or egg paint. It's something that would sit in the breadbox, untouched by passerby - and definitely nothing that would fly out of a boulangerie. The secret to this bread only reveals itself when it's cut into - and even without butter or any other Toast Topper I dare you to declare it's not delicious!

Pain au Levain avec Banane et Blé Entier

All our naturally sweetened breads:


#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.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Kheer #SundaySupper

Is there anything more comforting than a big bowl of rice pudding? While the bulk of my experiences with the grainy dessert growing up were the result of opening and dumping a can into a couple bowls, dad and I were suckers for the stuff (nobody else, by the way, even remotely likes it here). Today, if you were to ask me to name what I crave in times of stress, you'd hear me wax poetic about the thick, creamy pudding warmed up in the microwave and shoveled down as fast as I could. Heck, even cold, a spoonful from the fridge could cure wonders.

I wanted to bring the great memories of sharing rice pudding to my Home Ec class this past year, and since we were working on a "food around the world" theme, I turned to the only other country with a rice pudding that I knew of - India. Kheer, as it's called, is not always 100% rice based though - recipes vary from using wheat, tapioca, or vermicelli noodles as the starch and anything from cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, saffron, nuts and sesame seeds to flavour it. The version I made for class was culled from one of my old college professors and was what was served at her son's first birthday - leftover cooked rice elevated by re-cooking it in thickened milk, coconut milk, saffron and sweet spices before being garnished with softened raisins and dates. It sounded absolutely incredible - even to someone allergic to coconut such as me!

Making this exotic comfort food is even easier than making rice (to me, anyways... I'm stovetop-rice challenged). The kids - from 6 to 8 years old - all had at least one heaping spoonful, and some even took extras home after polishing off thirds! What made it home with me was eagerly purloined by my dad to rave reviews (probably a good thing, otherwise I'd be making ice cream with the thick, custardy mixture and trying to figure out what to do with it then!). If you and your family can tolerate dairy and coconut, I really wouldn't worry about the leftovers sticking around too long though!

A #bowlful of #Coconut #Raisin Kheer (rice pudding ) for a #glutenfree #snacktime

You know what else uses a lot of coconut? Piña Coladas! National Piña Colada Day is today, and those in the know are toasting the combination of coconut, pineapple and rum with their own libations. To our credit, the #SundaySupper gang is sharing over 40 coconut recipes today, with both sweet and savory dishes, breakfasts and drinks, almost anything you could think of! Check out our offerings below and don't forget to leave a comment telling me your favourite coconut dish!

Great Starts

Dive in with Sides and Appetizers

Coco-Nutty Main Dishes

“Col-lots-a” Desserts

Sweet to Sip Beverages
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, July 3, 2016

Orange Tofu Noodles

It has been ages since I've had good old-fashioned Chinese (Canadian) food. Since becoming the Italian-centric blended family we are, the household's general eating out attention has been on Canadian "bar and grill", pizza or burger joints. In fact, aside from my 2-3 sushi restaurant trips a year, Americanized European fare is as "exotic" as we get. That said, Mom and I, in particular, adore Asian-style cuisine, and when it has the balanced flavours of the culture with a ton of veggies as well, we're in like dirty shirts! While she's retired now, I still make Mom her lunches (and bread) for the week so she can grab-and-go something slightly more nutritious than a can of soup or a deli-meat sandwich. 

This time around, I had a mission in mind - an (almost) vegan, gluten free noodle bowl packed with all sorts of goodies from the garden and local farms. I started with a hearty mixture of carrots, broccoli and onions that I had prepped and frozen last year, fleshing it out with greenhouse zucchini and Ontario sweet potato that I spiralized for extra bulk. The noodles themselves were spaghetti from the new Barilla Gluten Free line of pastas, that I cooked in vegetable broth for extra "oomph" - and that I'm excited to say not only hold their shape better than most "normal" noodles but taste identical (I just wish they were whole grain, but small miracles!). 

Cooking up #glutenfree yummies with #sanj and #barilla #cooking #healthyfood #foodie #vegan #vegetarian #instafood #yum

Protein wise, I turned to my ever-present stockpile of various tofu, opting for Vitasoy Organic Black Soybean TofuPlus, one of my all time favourites, marinated in a bottle of San-J Orange Sauce amped up with ginger, garlic and extra sweet, sour and salty flavours. The sauce contains honey (the reason this is "almost vegan") but generally is more fruity than syrupy, adding a decadent flavour to the tofu and blanketing the noodles and veggies perfectly. The finished dish was delicious hot (right out of the pot... shhh!), but equally delicious cold the next day - just like stereotypical Chinese take out, with none of the "mystery" ingredients, excess fat or crazy sodium levels!

Orange Tofu Noodles

 Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Study in Apple Pie

Happy Canada Day everyone! I can't believe I've been writing this little blog for 9 years now - with a little blurb, a love of food, and a bored brain full of ideas. I've been through quite a few changes over the years, and the blog has seen the subtle shifts as I've grown, developed, and learned to "adult" as opposed to "student" or "invalid". I joined up with The Recipe Redux and The Sunday Supper crews, which keep me mostly on track with blogging (thanks!), and while I'm not the most regular of posters, I still try my best to share the joys (and the occasional frustrations) the kitchen brings me.

These days, I am gloriously happy (most days!) teaching Home Economics in the school I grew up in, taking care of my cat, Dish, and cooking and baking as much as I possibly can. Who knows what the next year will bring? Hopefully, you'll all stick around to find out.

So for this special day, I decided to do a little R&D for that aforementioned Home Ec class - a study in apple pie, if you will. Apple pie is American, you say?? Well, the USA may be known as the "owner" of apple pie, but I've grown up with enough apple picking, pie making, and pie-eating to know that we have equal stake. Extra if you add a slice of old Cheddar cheese on the side. Now, our "mom standard" around here is very, very plain-Jane: as in no sweetener, butter, and half the time not even cinnamon (we get distracted when we bake!). No, our Fall Harvest pies are just crust (made with shortening, but not the Crisco recipe anymore since it doesn't behave the same with their new formula) and Northern Spies piled up as high as we can go. They are still some of the best pies I ever remember eating, and as a kid I would not touch a storebought one becaue it was "too sweet".

But when have I ever followed the rules? Looking back at this blog, every apple pie recipe I've shared has had some sort of adornment. I've learned that (especially cooking for kids), most people are so used to the sweetened crusts and fillings of pie from bakeries or grocery stores that ours is "flat" to their tastebuds. That said, when one of my students started bringing in to-die-for tarts she called "apple tarts with caramel", and wrote me a request that we make them in class this coming year, I had to try and figure out what actually went into them. Thankfully, her mom pointed me in the direction of the recipe she used - the infamous Apple Pie by Grandma Ople recipe from Allrecipes. Looking at the recipe, I can see why it's so popular - how can you go wrong with butter and sugar and a lattice crust? I was hoping for something a little more streamlined, though (I only have an hour for lessons), so I decided to try a few other options too and see what still gave the "caramel" feel with less effort (yes, I said effort. I'm managing up to 15 Grade Ones this year!).

A Study in Apple Pie for Canada Day

So, armed with my trusty muffin tin and strips of parchment for easy removal, I tried three different options (using my mom's crust recipe, but with added instant oatmeal for texture). The first one (on the right of the photo) was filled with my variation of the Caramelized Apples recipe on, using salted butter (it's all we use at home), a pinch of cinnamon and a half teaspoon of honey (love my local honey!!). Next (in the middle) came the "original", a scaled-down Ople pie, using salted butter, oat flour instead of all purpose simply because it was on hand, and with more water (it was clumping too much with the amount as written). Lastly, I wanted to make Bright Eyed Baker's fantastic DIY Caramel Sauce (which has worked for me before) and drizzle that on top of the apples, but when I added the milk it split and curdled, and I wound up tossing the batch. Instead, I opted to try a mock "condensed milk", adding a pinch of cinnamon and only reducing the sugar and milk for a few minutes, until syrupy. Those are on the far left.

Overall, looking at the options, I kind of like the first ones best. First, the recipe cooks the apples, meaning they'll shrink less in the oven (read: more apples per bite!), second, cooking the apples in the butter / sugar mixture allows them to really soak up the butterscotchy flavour of the brown sugar, and they release their juices too. After filling the shells with the strained apples, I drizzled each with a little of that sauce left in the bottom of the pot (which I let reduce a little as I sorted the apples), and the rest makes an awesome syrup for anything appley! (For adults, I'd even add a half-shot of butterscotch schnapps to the filling mixtures... but you do you!). Regardless of the one you like, it's always important to let the pies cool completely before digging in so the juices can set. Reheat them in a low oven afterwards!

Looking at all three, what would your pick be?