Friday, September 30, 2016

A"maize"ing Sweet and Spicy Corn Bread

It's no secret that we love cornbread around here. Granted, given that we are Canadian and all that, we adore the sweeter, "breakfast" or "snack" style cornbread baked in square pans more so than the "real" cast-iron concoctions from the south. Regardless of the style, the first biting days of fall brought not only the first round of seasonal colds and flus through the neighbourhood, but that never-ending "chill" that requires true comfort food to chase away. With chili and stew on the stove, there's nothing better than a sweet and savoury side dish like a hearty cornbread, and this one wound up covering all the bases while staying 100% vegan and low-fat to boot.

A"maize"ing Sweet and Spicy Corn Bread

Making cornbread is not only a chance to savour a great comfort food, but for us is one of those "transition" recipes we make as summer trudges into fall, mixing the summery flavours of the corn with the more practical, "pantry" formats they can be found in - namely dried (as in cornmeal) and canned. Over the summer, we indulge in fresh, local corn full-force, often picking up extra ears when the farmstands are selling them for 10 cents apiece, shucking and freezing the kernels for the winter's soups and casseroles. I've tried to make "cream style corn" myself, but it never turns out right, and picking up a can is a fast, cheap and easy way to bring a ton of corny flavour and moisture to what is stereotypically a dry quickbread. The other secret to creating a melt-in-your-mouth, moist and tender cornbread is in the yogurt. The acidity tenderizes the whole grains gently without creating a soggy middle, and lends a great flavour on its own. While regular, low-fat (not fat free) Greek-style yogurt will certainly do, I decided to play up the "summer" theme and use a vegan, blueberry flavoured coconut yogurt - not only did the fruitiness taste awesome with the hot pepper jelly that also snuck into the batch, but it lent a great colour along with the blue cornmeal I had on hand.

The pan smelled like Heaven as it baked, and the only thing that stopped me from digging in right away was the fact that a single, piping hot corn kernel meeting my tongue was a feeling I did not quite want to go for. Once room temperature, though, the batch began disappearing mysteriously quickly!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

South African Yellow Rice #SundaySupper

If you were to come up to me when I was a kid, even a teenager, and say "you're going to be almost 100% vegan from your 20's and beyond", I'd have thought you were crazy. In fact, I probably would have laughed you off the face of the planet - after all, I lived for rare steak, turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas, the treat of bacon on the occasional special brunch out. However, life (and body chemistry) often has other plans, and now aside from the occasional, small portion of lean fish or seafood, animal proteins are off the menu.

South African Yellow Rice

If anything, though, taking meat away simply added a wealth of opportunity for flavour to come into my cooking! My digestion started changing when I was in university - when I couldn't afford much, if any, meat anyways - and rice, pasta, bread, frozen veggies and canned beans became the new "norm" my second year when I no longer had a meal plan. Through friends with similar monetary restrictions but from various ethnic backgrounds, I began to pick up flavour combinations to add to the relatively plain staples. Roasted frozen broccoli, cauliflower and green beans with garlic, onion, chili flakes, cumin and a hint of cinnamon became a filling, flavourful base for leftover rice and lentils, while spiking jarred tomato sauce with what felt like any and every herb and spice from Bulk Barn (all purchased on Student Discount Days) created the go-to condiment for everything my boyfriend and I ate for almost a month - I'd have it spooned over chickpea-filled tortillas zapped in the microwave, mixed with macaroni, broccoli and cottage cheese for dinner, and (for a brief moment when I could eat them) would use it to poach an egg for breakfast.

However, one of the things I never made in the apartment was sweet and spicy rice pilafs. One major reason was that all the recipes I had - from cookbooks, the web and friends - took an hour or more to make, which simply doesn't fit with the "home at 8 and starving" student mentality. The other (and probably more pressing) reason was that the ex did. not. like. dried fruit at all. Not Raisin Bran, not date squares, not cranberry-raisin fruit buns fresh from the bakery. As a result, I got my pilafs from the International Buffet section of our cafeteria in the Student Hall once every couple months, and envied the smells of my classmate's meals as we sat in 3-hour lectures.

Many years and a breakup later, I re-evaluated one of the recipes I was given by the Student Hall during an event for South African Style Rice. Essentially a mixture of sweet and spicy curry infused into Basmati rice and garnished with raisins, it also relies heavily on dried spices as opposed to fresh onion, etc that take time to cook down. Start to finish, I can get a pot on the table in about 30 minutes, with an extra 10 if I add a can of chickpeas (my favourite legume at the moment) to the pot as it simmers. As a bonus, this rice is absolutely divine cold the next day, but also reheats well on the stovetop, in the oven or in the microwave if you want it warm.

World Vegetarian Day is coming up, and to go with it #SundaySupper is providing a roundup of the best veggie-based offerings our team has to offer. Whether you're a lifelong convert or dabbling in Maybe / Mostly Meatless Mondays, You'll find something great!


Did you know?

  • Some of the reasons people say they have adopted a vegetarian-based diet are to improve overall health, environmental concerns, animal welfare, food safety concerns, and weight loss.
  • There are several types of vegetarians: A lacto-ovo vegetarian eats dairy and eggs, in addition to plant-based foods. They do not eat meat or fish. A lacto vegetarian eats the same as a lacto-ovo vegetarian, but does not eat eggs. A vegan eats only plant-based foods. A vegan avoids meat, dairy, fish and any foods with ingredients from animal sources. Some vegans also avoid honey.
  • More females follow a vegetarian diet than males do.
  • Vegetarians may be prone to vitamin B12 deficiency. Therefore, they must make sure that they get enough vitamin B12 through fortified foods or supplements.





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.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Squidgy Superfood Brownies

I never thought I would have as much of a struggle to procure ingredients as I did with these brownies. I had a killer recipe waiting in the wings, with flavours I knew were going to be hits. First of all, it was a brownie recipe, which means one thing was present: chocolate - and lots of it. The other ingredients in the formula promised a fudgier-style crumb, which I adore, and lent great earthy notes that balanced the bitterness of the cocoa and the sweetness of the sugar and Truvia. It's a rarity for me to find a recipe using buckwheat flour that isn't completely gluten free, but the dark, nutty tasting flour kept the total gluten level relatively low in these bars, meaning more fudginess!

Squidgy Superfood Brownies

But chocolate and buckwheat aside, the ingredient that sealed the deal (and almost drove me batty trying to procure) was roasted, pureed beets. I had planted rows upon rows of the root veggie (and carrots, but that's another sob story) at the beginning of the year, choosing varieties that were known for remaining sweet and tender even at gargantuan sizes, for the major purpose of baking into delicious treats. However, just like when I went to make the Green Thai Curry Paste, day after day I'd walk out to the garden to find my prized heirlooms half eaten while still underground. Forget 20-pound showstoppers, I'd be happy with enough beet left for a salad!

Squidgy Superfood BrowniesThankfully, the garden gods eventually smiled on me and granted me a small (in number) but large (in size and flavour) crop of my prized beets. After thinking the only thing I'd be able to make with this year's harvest was a small batch of Blueberry Beet Butter, I finally had enough to make my brownies.

I wasn't disappointed either - the cooled brownies were full of chocolatey flavour and were edged with just enough *something special* to appeal to the "I don't eat dessert" crowd. The texture was fudgy, edging on the slightest bit of squidgy in the centre, and they held together when cut so that they could be individually wrapped for lunches. The large amount of beet puree gave the batch a delicate ruddy colour and - bonus point - kept the added fat down to just ¼ cup for the loaf pan-sized batch. Of course, the perfect brownie (beet or otherwise) relies on a delicate manipulation of temperature for success. My secrets are pretty basic, but boy do they work:

1. Do not, under any circumstances, overbake. In most cases a toothpick will come out with damp crumbs for a fudgy batch

2. Placing the pan of baked brownies directly in the freezer from the oven for 30 minutes, then remove it and bring to room temp.

I have no idea why that second trick works - I took biology, not chemistry in college - but it does. I always make sure I've got enough space in my freezer to stick the hot pan (on a baking sheet if I have to layer on top of something) before I pop a batch in the oven!

What's your favourite type of brownie - fudgy, cakey, somewhere in between? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Peanut Butter Graham Cookies (with Tallow!)

Way back when I first rendered a batch of tallow, I wasn't quite sure how to use it. I mean, obviously it would make killer savoury pastry (like in my Jamaican “No-Beef” Patties) and would be a great option for sauteeing onions and garlic for soups, but I never thought too much about using it in sweet things. However, once I added it to my Butterscotch Apple Bread, I discovered that the slight savoury aroma translated into almost a "doughnut shop" nuance in flavour - after all, doughnuts used to be fried in the stuff!

Peanut Butter Graham Cookies (with Tallow!)

I couldn't wait to see what my home-rendered tallow would be like in other baking applications, and there's no better place in my mind to start than cookies! I (and my dad) adore peanut butter cookies of any type, and the sweet-salty flavour profile that peanut butter has worked great with the rest of the ingredients. To counter the savoury edge from the fats, I brought in the caramel flavours of graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and toasted oats, then tossed in a couple handfuls of whatever chocolate I had kicking around (mostly leftover candy from "end of the school year" parties).

The batch was amazing - perfectly sweet, salty and savoury at once, chewy in the middle with crisp edges and that little bit of texture from the oats. While I thought they might be greasy with the tallow, they didn't cause any oil slicks on my hands as I handled them - something I attribute to the chilling time (which is now a "must" on my oatmeal cookie list). While they won't be appearing in school lunch boxes anytime soon, there's nothing stopping kids from grabbing one with a glass of milk as they walk in the door!)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sweet Heat Pepper Jelly - Toast Topper #74

With work starting up again, I've been spending less time in the garden than usual this year. When I do get out there before dark (usually weekends only), the scraggly plot of various edible vegetation is full of surprises - this weekend alone, I discovered that cape gooseberries had long since edged out one of my tomato plants and had likely been growing all Summer (granted, the stems and blossoms do look rather tomato-like, it was only when the physalises started appearing that I started to wonder) and that I had quite the bounty of large beets on my hands. One of the other joys I discovered in with all my tomato, nasturtium and herb foliage was that my chili pepper plants (that I had long assumed killed by the vole invasion) had come back - full force. While most of the fruits are not ready to pick just yet, I did manage to snag a few Scotch Bonnets, a half-red Tabasco and a whole whack of my new fave: monkeyface peppers. I had forgotten that in the mix of peppers I set out all those months ago I had also planted Ring of Fire and scorpion chilis - ay carumba!

Sweet Heat Pepper Jelly

Luckily, I don't have to think about those just yet. I had always wanted to make a pepper jelly with my homegrown beauties, especially since the Tabasco and Scotch Bonnets have a decent, fruity flavour to them in addition to searing heat. A simmer in apple juice draws out the acidic, slightly bitter notes and makes them disappear, and by using Pomona’s Pectin I was able to use just enough sugar to call the works a "jelly" while preventing the batch turning into hellfire candy. 

A dollop of this on cream cheese-spread crackers (or toasted Dark Molasses Bread) is nothing short of delicious - there's a definite "kick" that sneaks up from behind but doesn't leave your tastebuds mangled beyond repair. It's also fantastic as a glaze for salmon, chicken, pork or even cornbread! 

Do you like pepper jelly? How do you savour it?

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Dark Molasses Bread #SundaySupper

Working in a school, coffee is something that essentially runs through the veins of myself and my coworkers. While not as heavy of a user as some, I do enjoy a cup or two a day - particularly during the winter months, where the days seem to drag on a little more than usual and recess is anything but enjoyable. Coffee is also one of the great equalizers among us - from the newest to the oldest staff members, we all drink from the same urn (like it or not) and if the pot runs dry before everyone's had their lunch break.... well, lets just say it's not always a pretty sight.

Dark "Lassy" Bread

Of course, the staff room is also full of carbohydrate-laden accoutrements to the morning brew, and whether it's donuts, cookies or coffee cake there's almost never leftovers. At home, while mom loves carbs in general, she'd much rather have a slice of hearty bread or a bagel, toasted with peanut butter, than a cupcake or store bought muffin. Her philosophy is "the heartier the better", and the two of us share a deep fondness for the dark, lightly sweetened rye bread we can find at the local deli.

Rye is not a wholly unusual bread variety for me to make - given that it's one of my mom's favourite types of bread, I've been playing with recipes for years, adding fruit and cacao nibs, granola,
multitudes of seeds and even trying a 100% sourdough. This time around, I brought the tang of sourdough, the sweetness of maple sugar and molasses, the nuttiness of buckwheat and the bitter hint of strong coffee to the loaf. At once sweet and savoury, it fits every meal of the day - toasted with a smear of creamy nut butter and a dollop of almost any Toast Topper, made into cream cheese and smoked salmon sandwiches or simply plain on a ploughman's lunch plate. The flavour of the coffee, while subtle, enhances the other nuances in the bread and reminds me of the "Russian Bread" I used to be able to have in my grandparent's favourite pub growing up.

This week's #SundaySupper is all about that morning cuppa. Whether you're obsessed with it straight up (I'm a black, no sugar gal myself), need a touch of sugar and cream to get things rolling, or prefer your java in edible form, we've got lots of options to drool at!




Main dishes

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.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Pumpkin Spice Raisin Bread with Kinako #BreadBakers

Fall has arrived, and with it the inevitable onslaught of all things pumpkin spice (including guinea pigs!). Ironically, I've always loved the flavours in the traditional spice blend, but never liked overly "pumpkin-flavoured" things (pancakes being an exception. Those are delicious). Also, while I will gladly nurse a mug of black PS flavoured coffee, you won't find me fighting over a latte anytime soon either. Give me the spices straight!

So, when it came time for this month's Bread Baker's challenge, I was glad to see we had the option of using either pumpkin or pumpkin spice, as well as a combination of the two. I'm putting off buying any tins of the stuff until right before (Canadian) Thanksgiving, when I make pie for Dad - and I might not even need to do that since I still have some roasted pumpkin puree in the freezer from last year to use. However, I always have a full array in my spice cabinet (or cabinets - they spread over 4 shelves in 2 pantry units). Used judiciously, they perfectly accent the other rich flavours going on in this dense, hearty dough.

Raisin and Spice Kinako Bread

I started with a base of nutty kinako (toasted soy flour) and barley flour for flavour and texture, mixed with run-of-the-mill AP and vital wheat gluten for structure. To keep the works moist and soft, I poured in some local half-and-half cream and scooped in a helping of tangy Greek yogurt. Along with making the crumb supple and soft, the acidity helped break down some of the tougher fibrous bits, making for a more even-tasting crumb. A small amount of brown sugar and honey balanced out the combination, not to mention made for a gorgeous golden crust and easily toasted inner crumb. Now, I am a huge fan of raisins in my spice breads, so I wasn't shy here either. Kneading in a big handful of soft, plump raisins mixed with coarse turbinado sugar meant that each slice essentially contained little soft caramel jewels that popped sweetly with each bite.

The dough was not a high riser, and originally I though the loaf a failure. But one slice later and I was converted - this was not only delicious, but it was such a hit I've been asked to make it again and again.

Breads with Pumpkin/Pumpkin Spice:


#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, September 11, 2016

Sautéed Gnocchi with Pomodo Crudo #SundaySupper

One of the (many) things I made sure to do over the Labour Day weekend was plan out my meals for the week. Once school (aka work) starts up again, time to cook and shop drops to minimal levels - especially for the first month or so, until life settles into the steady hum of routine. Luckily, as a Home Ec teacher, I have a little bit of a "bonus" in my back pocket - by working on recipes for class, I'm also effectively making meals for the week, and there's always something different to be had. The recipes I make for school all have to be relatively quick, easy enough for the <12 year old set to handle with some sort of supervision, and most importantly, easy to clean up from. Skillet meals have become the "name of the game" this year, and in honour of the glorious hauls of tomatoes and herbs that I've been bringing in from the garden I decided to turn some of my homemade Always Fluffy Gnocchi into a light, bright, flavour-packed vegetarian main course.

Sautéed Gnocchi with Pomodo Crudo

With the gnocchi already made and waiting in the freezer, I turned my attention to dicing up some still-warm, sun-ripened tomatoes, microplaning garlic, and mincing up herbs: two types of basil (standard globe and delicate Emerald Wine), lemon balm and thyme. A splash of balsamic and a pinch of salt rounded out the almost-raw sauce, which in combination with the residual olive oil from the gnocchi cooking resulted in a medley of rich, fresh and slightly floral or citrusy flavour which married perfectly with the mild starchiness of the potato pasta.

I know I'm not alone in the September weeknight rush - the Sunday Supper team has pulled together this week to embrace “Easy Skillet Recipes for Back to School”. These are (almost) brain-dead simple meals you can whip up to feed a crowd (or a couple kids who eat like an army)  in under an hour, using just one skillet.

Do you have a favourite back-to-school dinnertime trick? Share it in the comments below!

Makings of Raw Sauce

Favorite Skillet Breakfasts
Favorite Skillet Sides

Favorite Skillet Entrees

Favorite Skillet Desserts
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.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Always Fluffy Gnocchi

Making pasta has always been one of those things I "get into" once or twice a year. I love the whole process, and the rolling of the dough through the machine is oddly soothing - it's always magical to me how the mixture turns from ragged, flimsy shreds to silky, supple sheets after a few passes through the rollers. However, the excitement only lasts until the dough is cut, when I realize that I definitely don't have enough counter / drying space for any sort of quantity, and while I may be content to have baking sheets of linguini drying on the kitchen counter and dining room table, I know that the rest of the household is very much not

Gnocchi day...

Then I discovered how easy (and fun) gnocchi is to make, and since the homemade version is (unlike standard pasta) best frozen before cooking, storing a batch of it is as simple as freezing layers of the dumplings on sheet trays before transferring them to a freezer bag. For me, gnocchi is also a double-winner in the sense that it's something I make that my Italian stepfamily will actually eat! One of the things the extended clan has lamented over the years is the quality of most storebought gnocchi. While I'm sure there are various respectable brands out there, we only have one common option in the grocery store - and it comes shelf-stable in vacuum packs. It's not bad, per se, but they do tend to be a bit on the dense, leaden side and don't soak up sauce very well. If they were matzo balls, they'd be the sinkers. The one truly good thing I've managed to use them for was a baked "mac and cheese" type of pasta and broccoli dish, where their heft managed to bulk up the mixture and add enough texture to be interesting. However, the family here likes gnocchi that float in the pot when they're cooked through, or better yet, sauté to crisp, golden perfection before slipping into a simple pan sauce or meat ragu. It took me a couple tries to get my formula right, but that's one of the great things about gnocchi - it's cheap and filling, and even "failures" are pretty darn good (take it from me: lightly pan-fried with rosemary, garlic, mushrooms, smoked paprika and/or bacon, nothing potato based tastes bad). 

This final batch, though, is way better than anything you'll find in the store! The secret, I find, is adding a mixture of potato starch and baking powder to the flour and egg normally found in the dough - one binds without making the works "doughy" and tough, while the other ensures they puff with the heat of boiling water or a sizzling pan. The other trick, which I use when I make potato candy or waffles, is to either bake or microwave russet potatoes in their skins, then peel and mash. They have to be russets - a floury potato - otherwise the mash is like working with slightly melted crayons (white and red potatoes are called "waxy" for a reason!), and for these purposes moist cooking methods like boiling are not your friend. Exposed to water, the flesh sops it up, making it mushy, not fluffy, and unable to properly absorb the egg and flour without unduly making a tuberous paper maché paste.

It sounds like a lot of fuss and bother, but once you see the recipe you'll notice how simple the components truly are. You can even do what I'm doing this year in class and getting my groups of Home Ec students to work together on batches - they love being ale to "play" with their food by making snakes with the dough, and making the fork ridges appeals to the artists in the group too. 

Have you ever made your own pasta? What was your experience? 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Chocolate Chip Cookie For One

Well, with the first day of school under our belts, the waves of anxiety are (hopefully) starting to ease and the focus can turn to the important (and somewhat more enjoyable) things in life - forming new friendships, breaking out the new backpacks / binders / pencils and of course, bringing back the all important after school snack! Whether you're 6, 16 or 66, days at school and work are long, and some days finding time to eat means breaking up meals over the course of several hours, eating really early (for example, my lunch hour this year is 11-12!) or really late (some of my colleagues don't get their break until 2). When we do get those few coveted moments of peace to sit, sip a coffee or tea and have a bite, making those bites count is critical. 

Cookie For One

Enter the decadent, salad-plate-sized "cookie for one". It's not a functional, meal-in-a-cookie Powerbar copycat, by any means, but it is a great way to celebrate a day of fine work by having a ginormous treat all to yourself. While the recipe is written for one cookie, I often quadruple it and freeze the "patties" raw to bake as needed. They only take about 12 minutes from frozen (7 fresh), and who doesn't love a warm cookie full of gooey chocolate chips?

While there are certainly a lot of them present, it's not all fat and carbs in this dessert. First of all, this  cookie is a definite "stick to your ribs" concoction, and comes free of the risk of blood sugar spikes by featuring no refined sugar and lots of  whole grain brown rice and teff flour. The cookies are also gluten free, nut free and vegan, making them perfect for an "allergy-safe" snack on the go.

One major tip that works for pretty much any gluten free baked good is to let the mixed dough rest at least a few minutes before shaping and baking it off. Doing this helps hydrate everything more thoroughly, ensuring moister, less "sawdusty" results. Of course, if you must have a cookie now, I'm not going to know that you baked it immediately. I'm simply passing along my two cents!

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Cheese and Chive Drop Scones

No matter whether you like seafood or not, one thing almost everyone I've met can agree on is that at Red Lobster you are guaranteed to eat well. Case in point - my sister, who until recently would not go near anything from the sea with a 10-foot pole, would eagerly agree to go with us. While I ate my way through a mound of popcorn shrimp (not always with positive results- turns out I was never able to handle tiny shrimp), my dad tucked into trout or salmon and my mom savoured scallops, she would happily binge on a platter of chicken nuggets or spaghetti and about 4 of their infamous biscuits. 

Cheese and Chive Drop Scones

Now, as anyone who has eaten one of the establishment's hot, cheesy, buttery biscuits will attest, it is ridiculously hard to stop at one. They're beyond addictive, and their flavour is complex enough to make you wonder what makes them that good. Luckily, making decadent, just-one-more worthy biscuits from scratch is super-simple, especially if you know how to make regular, cut-out biscuits. These ones are dropped by the spoonful onto baking sheets instead, allowing for less gluten development (read: more tender biscuits), crispy craggy bits and way less mess.

Of course, I had to add my twist to the recipe, and by using spelt flour, Spanish paprika and old Cheddar the flavour and aroma of each drop is just edgy enough to appeal to adults wanting something to pair with wine and fruit at a cocktail party or make mini-tea sandwiches with. They sharpness is not so prominent as to prevent kids from trying to eat the whole platter-ful though - so keep your eyes peeled for the biscuit thieves!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Mallowy Meringues

Meringues are probably some of my favourite cookies. Made one way, they are perfect travelling cookies, long-lasting, light as air and perfect for a sweet bite on the go. However, I much prefer them made on the chewier side, resulting in a crisp shell around a just-baked, almost gooey middle. As someone who loved burning her marshmallows for the same effect, I'm not surprised - but this balancing act was always a tricky one to stick!

Mallowy Meringues

Until recently, achieving the combination of textures (while managing to get the eggs cooked) was always a bit of a fluke. Whether the oven was a touch on the cool side, the air was blowing a bit oddly, the air was more humid than normal or the egg whites were too fresh and didn't aerate fully, I never really know until I finally opened the oven door. Then, after browsing through one of the food science books I took out of the library (can't remember which one, sorry!), I stumbled across a trick that made such perfect sense I couldn't believe I didn't think of it - adding a touch of powdered sugar to the egg whites makes sure the batter holds onto just enough moisture to create a marshmallowy interior while keeping a crisp shell. The second trick of mine to get that sought-after texture is a short baking time at a relatively high temperature for meringues, followed by a "cool down" in the oven. Doing this makes the shells crackle slightly, and if you serve them plated, they're a perfect topping for lemon curd, raspberry coulis or vanilla custard (or a combination!). For kids, making pseudo-s'mores with these (top a graham cracker with a scoop of chocolate frosting followed by a meringue) is a great alternative to the campground treat too.

Shared with Gluten Free Fridays

Friday, September 2, 2016

Blueberry Crisp Granola

Are you all prepped for back to school season? As a teacher, this is quite possibly the busiest time of the year - even though I (and most of my colleagues) spend all summer lesson planning, preparing learning materials and generally working, it sometimes feels like we spent the season the way many people think teachers do - on the beach, drink in hand, golfing and/or generally lazing about. 

Regardless, the season of learning starts up again in a few days, bringing with it harried mornings and ever-hungry kids. Personally, I'm not one for scarfing breakfast half asleep while making sure I've got my shirt on the right way and my lunch is packed. Instead, I do what many parents at my school seem to do with their kids - packing grabbable, low-mess, low-fuss baggies of food to eat in the car. My selections range from the "weird" - baby carrots, roasted chickpeas or baked tofu - to the more "standard" - "O" cereal and sliced bananas, a crunchy mix of sweet cereal, dried cranberries and toasted, salted cashews (yes, I wash my hands before going to work!) or, when I'm good at planning ahead on the weekends, homemade granola.

Blueberry Crisp Granola

What I love about granola (and I'm sure I've said this before) is that it's almost infinitely variable. I'm almost always inspired by one Toast Topper or another, fleshing out the mix with oats (usually), various grains, dried fruit, nuts and chocolate. This time around, I capitalized on the bright, Summery flavours in my Blueberry Beet Butter, eventually building up to something I could only describe as a "breakfast friendly blueberry crisp". I followed my usual procedure for making granola (simply omitting the nuts and chocolate), but amped up the sweetness of the mix with cookie butter, honey, apple juice and Golden Grahams. Even more texture (and a hint of extra protein) came via a dose of
whole grain Cream of Wheat and kinako , which along with the lemon extract helped temper any overly saccharine notes.

What emerged from the oven was a crispy, crunchy, chunky pan of light-blue tinted delight. Perfectly acceptable to eat out of hand, I also used it to fill the hollows of apple halves before baking them for an impromptu dessert, and Mom has been tossing a bit onto her oatmeal-flax-blueberry porridge in the morning for an extra boost (especially this week, when she's been busy helping both my sister and I prepare to get back to the books). At this rate, I'm not sure if it will last the week!