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!

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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!

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