Monday, July 31, 2017

White Chocolate Cherry Cookies

A shot of cherry drink mix turns these white chocolate-studded cookies a vibrant pink.

Glittering Citrus and White Chocolate Cherry cookies

I'm going to preface this by saying there's pretty much nothing "healthy" about these cookies. I mean, they're essentially the Unicorn Frappuccino of the cookie world - nothing in nature is that pink.

But that's not to mean they're not tasty. Ohh, no. Every once in a while nothing but a true dessert-y indulgence will satisfy, and these cookies also invoked the "kid" in me. Pretty much everyone I know who grew up in the USA or Canada drank at least some Kool Aid in their formative years, and while my parents were of the "half the sugar" club I do have to say it made fantastic, tongue-staining popsicles. They, along with strawberry shortcakes on our back deck, were the highlight of many summers with friends.

Thinking about making an almost "cotton candy" cookie with the powder was intriguing, and a great way to say adios to summer. I found a pretty basic cookie recipe online and played around a bit, not only adding the unsweetened powder but a dash of honey for chewiness, cake flour for an almost melt-in-your-mouth tenderness and white chocolate chips for their unabashed sweetness.

With Summer at it's height, and carnivals cropping up everywhere, these cookies are a great way to toss your baking hat into the ring. If nothing else, the kids will adore the colour and sweet cherry taste, while the grown up kids will have a hint of nostalgia for their "long lost" childhoods.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Supreme Zucchini Spice Bread

Unassuming to the eye, this moist and tender spice loaf is packed with three - count them - THREE cups of shredded homegrown zucchini.

Supreme Zucchini Spice Bread

There is no way this zucchini bread should work. According to the science of me, that 3 cups of zucchini just simply shouldn't fit into a quickbread with only 1 1/2 cups of flour. Yet, the recipe I adapted from somewhere (sorry, lost the source) does - and not only does it work, it tastes fantabulous and stays moist for ages. 

Like many gardeners (and their families, friends and neighbours), we have come into the "zucchini glut" season opener strong.Every afternoon my stepdad comes in from the garden bearing armloads of the squash, and with our fridge already full of the stuff they're being left on what seems like every available surface in the house! Unlike some of our past years, the tomatoes and peppers haven't quite kept up their end of the bargain, so something as obvious as ratatouille just isn't practical right now.

Supreme Zucchini Spice Bread

While zucchini is finding its way into almost everything savoury we eat, I had to break down and power through at least a few of the behemoths in the form of sweet treats. The problem with most zucchini bread recipes is that they either call for gluts of oil or tons of eggs in exchange for maybe a cup of grated zuke. That wasn't going to cut it here, so when I found this recipe I figured that, if it didn't bake all the way through (and how could it, with only 1 1/2 cups of flour and 3 cups of zucchini?) I could slice it up and give it the biscotti treatment. I modified it, of course, swapping some of the oil for a vanilla coffee creamer we had in the fridge, reducing the sugar and adding in a bunch of spices for flavour, but until it came out of the oven perfectly baked I refused to hold out hope. 

The first slice was delicious - and surprisingly soft and fine textured. Given the whole wheat flour in the batter I was prepared for that slight "rustic" mouthfeel, which isn't bad at all - just a given - but this didn't have any of that. Instead, it was a bouquet of aromas and flavours with an unending moisture that didn't become gummy. I took it to work and it disappeared - and that's in a staff room full of vegetable-haters!

That said, this recipe definitely has the potential to turn to spicy zucchini soup - if you don't squeeze the zucchini dry. In fact, I made the second loaf with frozen, shredded zucchini that I thawed, drained and then squeezed dry, and had to add a little extra liquid (in that case, half-and-half, I didn't have any more creamer) to compensate and get the batter looking "normal" again. I also opted for "fine" shreds (thank you, food processor), which helps exude a bit more moisture.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Chocolate Rhubarb Preserve - Toast Topper #80

Chocolate Rhubarb Preserve. It's an unusual combination: 70% cocoa chocolate, local honey and sour homegrown rhubarb, but I promise you the sweet-tart flavours willing have you licking the spoon!

Chocolate Rhubarb Preserve

If you asked me what to pair with rhubarb, I guarantee you that dark chocolate would not be one of the things I would list. Berries, raisins, honey and sugar, sure. But rhubarb has such a pervasive sour punch and never-ending stringiness that adding another bitter flavour just seemed... wrong.

That said, leave it to the brilliance of food bloggers to come up with something incredible. Skoraq Cooks had posted a recipe with just this pairing a few years ago that not only paired sour rhubarb and bitter chocolate, but added molasses as well. Since I was making this for my mom (not a huge rhubarb fan, but a lover of chocolate) I swapped out the relatively bitter molasses for local honey, and added tart cherry juice (from Cheribundi's lovely gift pack) for a hint of fruitiness.

As the rhubarb, cherry juice, honey and sugar cook down, the sweet-sour flavour comes into full force. The sugar also somewhat caramelizes, adding a rich depth of flavour to just the rhubarb alone. What got interesting was when I added the chocolate and salt. All of a sudden the mixture went from "strawberry rhubarb jam minus the strawberry" to something so balanced that it almost didn't make it to the toast. In fact, both Mom and I had a spoonful from the pot while it was still warm, and would definitely use it as a topping for cheesecake or chocolate ice cream. Here's to experimenting, and cheers to chocolate for making everything better!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Aubergine Bake 2.0

Aubergine Bake 2.0 - it's what's for dinner! Spicy, savoury and filling while staying 100% vegan, low fat and rich in fibre, vitamins A & C, protein and calcium.

Aubergine Bake 2.0

Sometimes a recipe just needs a re-jig, you know? It's been almost 9 years since I posted this layered eggplant / zucchini / mushroom dish, and since I've grown and developed my skills over the years, I figured I'd make it again. That, and I needed portable, reheatable meals to take with me on various trips where I wouldn't have anything but a kettle and microwave!

The general process of making the baked casserole is essentially the same - broil thin slices of eggplant, spread some tomato sauce and sautee up a mess of veggies with spices and a generous pinch of chile flakes. The spices I use now have been expanded a bit, lending a greater depth of flavour, allowing me to nix the vegan Mozzarella (an affordable brand of which has become impossible to find here). While I still top the works with vegan Parmesan and breadcrumbs, I opt for gluten free panko now for and extra crunch.

Aubergine Bake 2.0

While I can certainly attest it is delicious after microwaving, it is still infinitely better when reheated in the oven, and sits beautifully on top of a bed of rice (I like red rice these days). In fact, I think I might have it for lunch!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Chocolate Hazelnut Beet Brownies

Chocolate Hazelnut Beet Brownies are rich and decadent with a delicate worthiness and a wallop of nutty flavour. Perfect with a scoop of frozen yoghurt or a sprinkle of berries!

Chocolate Hazelnut Beet Brownies

I was fortunate enough to grow up in Canada, which (along with many other pluses) sold Nutella in every grocery store. My sister, in particular, was (and is) a Nutella addict, and I definitely appreciate the allure of combining rich nuts with decadent chocolate (as the peanut butter cups I recently shared clearly exhibit). The women in my family also have a deep-rooted affinity for brownies - and while I've tried making the infamous Three (really Four)- Ingredient Brownies I have to admit I found them rather lacking in hazelnut flavour, being more sweet and almost verging on hard rather than chewy and nutty.

Coincidentally, when I was cleaning out our deep freezer during the Green Two-Protein Curry purge, I came across a plastic bag with two very large, roasted and peeled, beets. Since I knew one of them was a Zentaur beet (originally intended for cattle feed, but ridiculously sweet and delicious) and I was almost positive the other one was one of my favourite Lutzes, I immediately started thinking of what I could bake up to capitalize on their sweet, earthy flavours. Anything chocolate is an absolute given win with beets (especially when they have been super slow-roasted like these), and flipping through my bookmarked recipes-to-make I came across one from Early Morning Farm for chocolate beet brownies.

Now, I've done beet brownies before. I actually made both this recipe and a batch of my Squidgy Superfood Brownies at the same time, just to use up all the beets. This recipe needed something to make it stand out, earn it a page in my brownie recipe file. Realizing I hadn't made a really good hazelnut brownie, and not a hazelnut brownie at all without Nutella, my mind was made up. It didn't hurt that we had some hazelnutty chocolate stashed in the freezer from the holidays, which I knew would make a great topping. Everything came together swimmingly, and while the hardest part is always waiting for it to cool, I stand by my belief that putting the pan directly into the freezer from the oven equals the best fudgy texture. With no leavening agents, this is nowhere on the cakey spectrum, which is exactly how brownies should be (IMHO).

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Chocolate and Roasted Cherry "Scones"

These Chocolate and Roasted Cherry Scones are gluten free, dairy free and full of Summer cherry flavour.

Chocolate and Roasted Cherry Scones

There is a good reason why I don't "get" the whole Paleo diet thing.

Growing up eating everything and anything (granted "paleo" wasn't even a thing back then), I became used to the textures and tastes of certain things. If we wanted a cupcake, we had a cupcake. Biscuits were flaky and buttery. Cookies were (ideally) chewy and full of good stuff. Flour was just something that was a "given" when you baked treats. When I started baking gluten free, most of the recipes I made were (and are) designed to emulate the "regular" treats in texture and taste, and by and large they do.

The Paleo thing, though, is a whole other ball-game. The creators of the diet claim the food "approved" for consumption is what the cavemen ate, like fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, and nuts, but no grain. Grains are what give most baked goods structure and body, not to mention the texture we're accustomed to. Take those away, and what you make might be called a cookie, but you'll definitely know it isn't. Whether the grainless diet arugument holds water is up for debate, but for my two cents, I'd rather eat a real cupcake than an unsweetened, dehydrated mass of ground seeds and nuts smeared in avocado and called a cupcake. If you're going to eat like a caveman, it's whole, unprocessed foods and that's it. None of them had Vitamixes, ovens or freezers, after all.

But I digress. Someone had given me a copy of Brittany Angell's book Every Last Crumb for Christmas a couple years ago, touting her scone recipe as being nothing short of amazing. I'm willing to give anything a go, and gave the recipe an honest shot.

As you can see above, my "scones" look nothing like traditional scones, and they certainly didn't act like traditional scones as I was trying to make them, the mixture being more "batter" than "dough". I don't understand why I had an issue that clearly other bloggers and Brittany Angell didn't (except I went for the "non-dried" fruit option), but I had to make these in a springform pan and bake them for a significant amount of time before cutting wedges was even an option. My changes are given in the recipe below, which still tasted delicious, albeit more of a cake than something to spread jam on. I wound up compromising in the end, melting some almond butter for a drizzle overtop when served.

Have you had any experiences baking Paleo? What are your tips / frustrations?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Power Packed Peanut Butter Cups

Between silky layers of chocolate is a protein and fiber filled peanut butter-maple cream. Decadent!

Power Packed "Reeses" Cups

I can't think of something I love more than peanut butter and chocolate together. Whenever we would get chocolates from Purdy's or the rare package from Laura Secord, I'd be in there as soon as I could to claim the salty-sweet treats for myself, and if we were out for ice cream in cottage country, a scoop of Chocolate Peanut Butter would be on my cone! Halloween gave me all the peanut butter cups I wanted out of my sister's bag, and I ate every last one of them with glee.

As I've grown older, though, I've become somewhat pickier with my chocolate confections. While I certainly wouldn't turn anything with the combination down, I'm more on the "bittersweet truffle" train than the "mass produced candy" wagon. Chocolates in any respect don't exactly reek of health and nutrition, but I'd rather enjoy a treat than eat something cheap now. Then I found a recipe that I had to try - a peanut butter cup reminiscent my childhood, but wrapped in dark chocolate, with limited added sugar and with an added kick of  protein and fibre too.

Admittedly, the first batch of filling didn't even make it to the chocolate coating stage. I accidentally over-processed the chickpea and peanut butter mixture in my attempt to make a smooth filling, because I can't follow directions, and it got so thick there was no "spooning" it into cups. However, I have it on good authority that the filling, au naturale, is fantastic and a great addition to ice cream or cumbled on baked apples.

The second time, I paid attention and did it properly - and while it's not a super-sweet mixture it's perfect for the adult palate. For kids, I'd squeeze in some extra honey (which is sweeter than sugar) and use a "lighter" coating chocolate. Also, unlike the packaged treats, these are relatively perishable - either enjoy within a few days stored at room temperature or keep them in the fridge (or freezer - that would be excellent!)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Nanaimo Bar Frozen Yoghurt

This dessert is a vanilla base (with custard powder) peppered with graham cracker crumbs, coconut and chocolate sprinkles. You'll never guess the secret ingredient!

Nanaimo Bar Ice Cream / Fro-Yo

Since I bombarded you with heat on Tuesday, why not enjoy a cooling, refreshing dessert to tame the fire?

I actually made this flavour of frozen treat for my grade 7s and 8s on request. While Nanaimo bars might be one of the most quintessentially Canadian desserts out there, there were two students who had never had one - and the class decided that we had to remedy that situation! Since the younger set was able to enjoy their Confetti Cake Frozen Yoghurt in class and neither time nor equipment was really on our side to make the real deal (or a nut-free version, anyway), I decided that the best, and "Summeriest", thing to do would be to make a frozen yoghurt packed with all the flavours you'd find in a bar.

For those of you unfamiliar with the delicious dessert, Nanaimo bars are basically a three-layered dessert. On the bottom, you'll find a mixture of graham crackers, sugar, cocoa, coconut, (usually) walnuts or almonds and butter that bakes into a firm, textured and sweet crust. That's where the oven requirement ends, though. The second layer is a sweet vanilla custard (traditionally made with the very British Bird's Custard Powder), which chills while a bittersweet chocolate ganache is made and eventually poured into a glorious sheet of deliciousness on top. Then you have to wait again for everything to set up - ideally overnight. See why it would be a little bit of an issue in my 45-minute class period?

However, sticking the basic elements into a frozen yoghurt couldn't have been easier. I used the same tofu-yoghurt-cream base as the Confetti Cake frozen yoghurt, adding extra custard powder, corn syrup and sugar to make up for the lack of cake mix. As it churned, in went the "crust" ingredients - graham cracker crumbs, shredded coconut and (in place of ganache) bittersweet chocolate sprinkles that I had found in a little European deli by my house. The mixture passed the "taste test" by my mom (a bona fide Nanaimo bar lover) and I packed it up for school.

I have never - and I mean never - seen anything in Home Ec disappear that fast. After seconds, thirds and fourths (!), some kids took home the scant leftovers to much acclaim by their parents. It's a good thing we did this at the end of the school year, since I have a feeling I might have been asked to make it a few more times by both young and old!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Congrats to the Taste Canada Awards Shortlist!

Since it's creation, Taste Canada Awards has honoured 208 Canadian-authored culinary books and blogs in both official languages. The winners will be announced at the awards gala on October 30, 2017 in Toronto.

A full list of the books (both French and English) can be found on the official site here. The short-listed blogs are below (unfortunately not enough French blog nominations came in to warrant an award in that category).

Food Blogs: General
Baking For Friends,
Chu on This,
Kitchen Heals Soul,
You Have Been Served,

Food Blogs: Health and Special Diet
A Dash of Compassion,
Kitchen Frau,
Oh She Glows,
The Simple Green,

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Green Two-Protein Curry

Two Protein Green Curry - a fantastic, spicy meal with chicken, tofu, loads of greens and homemade green curry paste. Rice or noodles is a must!

Green Two-Protein Curry

Yup, another curry. It has to say something about my family's undying love for the stuff that I've actually created a category for curried dishes on this blog. That said, while this is the 19th meal to make it on that page, every single one I've made has been so different from each other. One thing that stays constant, though, is that complex layering of spices and aromatics that somehow, some way, just work. With few exceptions, any vegetables that are languishing in the fridge perk up beautifully in the presence of the spices - it's one of our favourite ways to clean out the fridge and use up some of our garden's bounty (and we always add a ton of them). Herbs are never "optional" in a good curry, but the type you use can be. Again, I am always inspired by what my garden gives me - and unlike traditional curry lovers I flat-out refuse to grow cilantro (yuck!).

The best part, at least for us, is that you can essentially use anything as a protein base, because a curry variation exists for it. Since I had the last little bit of my homemade green curry paste in the freezer, along with some cooked chicken thighs and a block of tofu, I scouted around to see if mixing proteins, especially a vegetarian with a non-vegetarian one, had been done before - and would the lemony, slightly fishy and definitely spicy paste be too much?

I found inspiration in a Cooking Light recipe, of all things, and set to work, adding my own flair with both proteins, extra veggies and tons of herbs from the garden. Since the zucchini and cabbage are coming in thick and fast, they got top billing on my "shopping" list, as did the sorrel, basil and lemon balm, which all seem to enjoy the extra water we've been given!

Now, I won't lie - I made this with the homemade paste and the Thai chili flakes (we like our heat), and it was spicy. As in, "bowl of rice is mandatory" spicy. However, with all that heat there was so much flavour that it didn't matter that we were breathing fire - and for extra insurance, using the richest, fattiest coconut milk (or even cream) you can find helps temper the spice a bit more.

They do say that hot peppers are really good for you, though, so why not dig on in?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Garden Pasta Salad

A Garden Pasta Salad is a great way to get veggies and legumes into your diet, and even kids will gobble it up thanks to a lemon and Parmesan vinaigrette! Tasted and tested by my Grades 1-3 and 7-8 Home Economics classes - definitely kid approved!

Garden Pasta Salad

While the rain is certainly not boding well for my tomatoes and hot peppers this year, I'm certainly not wanting for a lot of other things in my garden! The zucchini, cucumbers, carrots and beets are particularly happy in the veggie garden, and the herbs, by and large, are taking off as well. Since we're deeply mired in the glory of Summer (well, mostly... it was below 20C this morning!) hot meals at noon are not always appreciated. Salads, though, tend not to be overly filling, and sandwiches can be kinda... beige.

That's why I love this pasta salad - packed with fibre and protein from the veggies and chickpeas, hearty with gluten free noodles and full of flavour thanks to a zingy vinaigrette, it was a breeze to whip up a batch first thing in the morning (or last thing at night), then cover and refrigerate it for up to a week, taking servings as needed. The vegetables and chickpeas become marinated by the dressing, eventually exuding their own delicious flavour as well, so every bite is satisfying to the stomach and the palate.

As someone who grew up hating pasta salad as a rule, I have to say this one changed my mind. While kids love it (I tested this out on my Grades 1-8 classes), it's definitely got enough of a "grown up" flair that any potluck or backyard party - including baby and wedding showers - would have a place for this on their table.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Heavenly Jam - Toast Topper #79

Heavenly Jam is a unique mix of pineapple, strawberries and homegrown rhubarb. Sweet and tart, it's excellent on toast!

Heavenly Jam

Diving into our freezer a few weeks ago, I discovered that we had many, many bags of chopped, homegrown rhubarb on the shelves. While I enjoy rhubarb jam, and  rhubarb pies, it's just not something I really go through en masse. Our 5 (5!) plants out back are still churning it out faster than we can deal with it (they do have beautiful flowers, though), but I had to make a dent in our freezer stash first. Since I had some lovely local strawberries from the farmer's market and some excellent pineapple (in pouches and cans) from Dole to use as well, I started looking around to see if there was anything that could use up these "bits and pieces" from the kitchen.

It so happened that I managed to find a recipe that used all three of these ingredients, and not much else! Fellow Canadian blog Rock Recipes had a recipe for Heavenly Rhubarb Jam, which sounded suspiciously familiar - that was when I realized that the same preserve was in a cookbook from Newfoundland, where Barry lives. The only major difference between the two recipes I saw was that my cookbook used both 1. Pineapple Jell-O (they make pineapple Jell-O?) and honey, while Barry's was vegan and more streamlined.

While I knew the flavours of the produce would marry together and shine as one, I still wanted to add my own little "touch". Not growing nasturtiums this year (my signature ingredient for the past few), I decided on the next best thing - vanilla. The beans I used to make my vanilla sugar were relatively floral in flavour and scent, and added a touch of "tropical" flavour to the jam as it cooked down.

That said, I almost forgot to add sugar at all! I was canning several items that day, and this rhubarb mixture had cooked for about 45 minutes before I had a chance to taste it. You definitely need sugar. It doesn't make it super-sweet, but it definitely enhances the berry and pineapple notes.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Almost Foolproof Lemon Curd

Tangy, sweet and decadent, this recipe is almost impossible to screw up!

It seems like no matter where you are, there is always a place for lemon on the  menu. Lemons have a particular ability to lighten up even the recipes that should be cloying - the Alfredos, the cheesecakes, the puddings and the compound butters. Nowhere, it seems, does lemon shine more than the sweet kitchen, since precious few menu items are hindered by the zesty, bright kiss of citrus.

Almost Completely Fool-Proof Lemon Curd

While lemon can be added to desserts simply for sourness (the juice) or as an accent, I love when the citrus gets a real chance to shine. Whenever I need a simple, to-the-point lemon accent on the plate, I almost always go for lemon curd. It's hard to argue with a silky, lick-the-plate sauce like it, rich with butter and egg yolks and a sunny bright as a summer's day. However, for the beginning cook, curds are a little nerve wracking - after all, they are essentially an unbuffered custard of tempered eggs and melted butter.

As I grew and learned as a cook I saw my fair share of lemony scrambled eggs, but within the past year or so I discovered a technique that almost guarantees success. By beating butter, sugar and yolks off the heat first, you give the egg proteins a little "pre cook" (sugar coagulates egg protein) and the butter protects everything from the heat of the pot. Because of this butter "parka", you can actually do the whole cooking process on the stovetop without fear as well - almost unheard of when I was in pastry school. The whole eggs also add a little bit of protection, the whites offering some extra water as a barrier. While the whole mixture takes a few minutes to cook to perfection on the stove, it is 100% worth it - and it stores well in a tightly lidded jar too, should you have leftovers!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Confetti Cake Frozen Yoghurt

A hybrid ice cream and frozen yoghurt, made for my junior Home Economics class. How can you say no to cake batter and sprinkles?

Confetti Cake Ice Cream / Fro-Yo

Well, now that we're in the middle of July - and arguably one of the most humid, rainiest, non-beach-worthy ones I can remember - it's finally warm enough to want to enjoy an ice cream cone (or cup). Now, if you ask me, if there isn't chocolate in some form, it's not worth it - my all time favourite is a chocolate yoghurt filled with chunks of brownie and a fudge ribbon - but when I was writing this recipe for my Home Economics class I knew it was best to stick to vanilla-based treats.

However, what kid (or adult, for that matter) doesn't like licking cake batter off the spatula now and then? That was my inspiration for this Fro-Yo / ice cream hybrid. To get the "cake" flavour I used plain ol' French vanilla cake mix, and for a confetti cake feel I tossed in a bunch of sprinkles. The creamy richness came from three sources - full fat yoghurt, a dash of heavy cream, and the secret weapon - silken tofu. The tofu acts as a bulker, as well as lending an unending creaminess and hit of protein too. Basically, think of it as similar to the eggs in a traditional ice cream, especially when it's combined with the custard powder.

Since I was making this for kids, I didn't add a shot of vodka, which would have kept things slightly softer for scooping after freezing. I did add a touch of corn syrup, which helped (you could use honey too), but I recommend letting it sit out about 10 minutes or so before trying to get a clean scoop out of it.

What's your favourite flavour?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Crunchy Olive and Rosemary Grissini

Crunchy Olive and Rosemary Grissini are 100% dunkable treats packed with flavour from fresh rosemary, EVOO and sundried black olives. All this, and they're gluten free to boot!

Crunchy Olive and Rosemary Grissini

I don't often get to flex my specialty-baking muscles these days. A few years ago, it seems like every other thing I baked was gluten free, vegan or some sort of allergy-free. It was my life, and what I was able to spend my days doing. This past year (and the one before it) were spent in a glorious whirlwind of Home Economics recipe making, baking and undertaking - which I loved, and even found sort of awkward since all of a sudden my only full-stop restriction was that I couldn't use pork. Eggs, milk... all of those were fine, and encouraged - meaning I had to re-remember "old school" baking after years of ignoring eggs and milk products.

A few weeks ago, though, my mom came to me looking for help with the menu for a dinner guest who was coming that weekend. One of the guests was gluten and dairy free, and while my mom eats everything, allergy-free cooking (and especially baking) is not her wheelhouse. After I schooled her on the proper deep-cleaning of the kitchen and basic sanitation for allergy prevention (although we never found out if it was a true allergy / intolerance or a simple preference, I wasn't taking chances), I flipped through a few of my tried-and-trues with her. We settled on Orange Crème Cupcakes for dessert - a tried and true favourite of mine, and always a hit at fundraisers - but we needed something to go with appetizers.

Given that my stepfamily is Italian to the max, that means bread. I know home baking without gluten has come miles and miles since Celiac was a public issue, but when you (like my family) have never had to eat that way... well, old habits die hard. Luckily, I had a recipe that I had made once before in my back pocket that was guaranteed not to solidify gluten free baking as the "dry and tasteless torture" Celiacs have to suffer, by the sheer fact that when done properly, it should be dry.  Grissini (crunchy, skinny breadsticks) packed with sun dried black olives, rosemary and rich, fruity EVOO were the answer!

Now, making these will not be 100% like making "regular" breadsticks - the dough will be wet and sticky to start with, and the resting time is really more to ensure the thorough hydration of the dough so that it can firm up than anything else, and "kneading" is more of a "shaping" than a "stretch and fold". My mom was helping me with these, and once she realized that you can't really "throw around" the dough like normal, it's fairly simple to roll these into their final shape. A convection oven enhances the crispness of the sticks in a shorter time, but it's definitely not necessary - if they're not as dry as you like, bake them longer! Within a day or so, they will lose their crispness, but about 10-15 minutes in a 325F oven will bring them right back to "dipper" status.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rhubarb Pie with Vanilla, Strawberries and Lemon Balm

The standard strawberry rhubarb formula gets twisted with this version, which uses 100% fruit strawberry jam for convenience without loss of fresh fruit flavour. The filling gets added notes of vanilla, cinnamon and lemon balm for a true bakery wonder!

Rhubarb Pie with Vanilla, Strawberries and Lemon Balm

I never used to think I'd be a strawberry-rhubarb kind of gal. Truth be told, in the middle of Summer I'd still pick a perfectly gooey cherry pie over anything, but I have to say, a homemade pastry with local strawberries and rhubarb would be a mighty close second!

I'm almost 100% sure my love for the sweet-tart combination comes from my Summer weekends spent with my Grandma. I would watch (and try to help) as she plucked rhubarb, dill and cucumbers from her community garden, and help (and eat) when we went strawberry picking (or choosing, depending on the energy levels that day). I never got to see her make the jam, pickles and pies, but sure as anything, come Summer's end we'd have a pie and a few extra jars in our fridge! Aside from her holiday mashed potatoes, I honestly can't think of anything else she made that was super-spectacular (sorry, Grandma). Somehow, though, she managed to get the balance of sour and sweet just right, and I was a convert.

Obviously, I have more than my fair share of strawberry-rhubarb concoctions - not the least of them being pies! This time around I decided to utilize a part-jar of strawberry jam I had made early in the Summer and do a riff on this one from last year, making a different crust (that smells like doughnuts when it bakes!). In the filling, I added layers of flavour for a truly unique pie experience: cinnamon and vanilla (just a dash of each) added a real richness and extra sweet feel to the mixture, while a dash of minced fresh lemon balm from the garden brought a slightly herbal, citrusy brightness. The homemade jam was pretty plain-jane and made with local honey, so all I tasted was fruitiness on that end, mingling with the tangy backyard rhubarb.

While it's certainly not traditional - Grandma would never make pie like this! - it is absolutely fantastic, and a perfect cap to a backyard BBQ or a leisurely meal at the cottage, boat or trailer. Don't forget the ice cream!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Seeded Potato Challah #BreadBakers

With just a few twists, this 2-Seed Potato Challah turns into a stunning centerpiece for the table.

Two Seed Potato Challah

While its no secret that I love making bread, I don't usually get the opportunity to "play" with egg-rich recipes. This is mostly because I simply don't buy eggs to eat normally, so can't justify buying a dozen just to use three or so. However, when I found myself gifted with a carton of eggs out of the blue, with only a single request to make a batch of lemon curd (recipe coming), I knew something good and Challah-y would be in order.

Ironically, at the same time I found myself with a lot of leftover potatoes in the pantry that were starting to sprout. I had purchased them for gnocchi making lessons in Home Ec, and while most of the bag was used, a few just couldn't fit into the recipe. I began scouting around to see if I could find a potato and egg-rich bread, and found a few that suited my purposes with a bit of tweaking. I'm no stranger to Challah, with three of my recipes on the site (my favourite is still the Figgy Olive Oil and Sesame Challah), so I couldn't wait to get going!

Two Seed Potato Challah

Since I had extra whites left over from the curd, I used those in place of one of the eggs in the dough. I also used warm soy milk for the liquid, both for the added moisture and for it's insane ability to nurture yeast doughs. I added butter to make up for the moisture of the lost egg yolk (not that it needed it, but it helped the richness too) and to offset the whole wheat, which can be drier to work with. Lastly, I wanted to add a somewhat sourdough tang to the bread, just to cut the richness, and a pinch of citric acid worked wonders! In retrospect, this loaf is closer to brioche than Challah, but who lets semantics get in the way?

With all the tenderizing and moisture-giving properties that were in the dough, the baked loaf also kept fresh for longer. However, should any go stale, they make for excellent toasted sandwiches or bread puddings!

This month is all about creative braiding of breads with the #BreadBakers. From the basic two stranded twists to complicated 12 stranded braid, attempt any bread around the world either with a filling or without, studded with nuts and dried fruits or plain. Create an art with your bread dough this month. Gayathri's Cook Spot is our host this month - thanks

Here is the collection of all the beautiful braided breads from our team.

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Dakkous #ChileWeek (and a #ChileWeek Wrap-Up)

Dakkous is an Arabian Style Tomato Sauce perfect for stirring into rice or couscous as well as serving with roasted meat.


I hope you've all enjoyed my exploration into the blazing world of hot peppers through this #ChileWeek! From the melt-your-mouth Scotch bonnets in yeasterday's Jack Sparrow's Peach Preserves to the complex flavours of  Harissa and even the familiar notes from the Sweet Thai Chili Jam, I was able to run the gamut of flavours (and use up a bunch of peppers I had in the freezer!). Below, you'll see a list of not only this week's #ChileWeek posts, but some of the other spicy delicacies I've made in the past while. If you are - like I was - stuck with what to do with your pepper harvest, check out a few of mine for inspiration!

#ChileWeek Recipes

Other Chile Recipes (shared on Twitter and Facebook with the tag #ChileWeek)
Homemade "End of the Season" Ketchup 

Okay, so I bet you're all (or at least some of you) thinking "what the heck is Dakkous?". I admit, I did too when I stumbled upon it in my copy of The Chile Pepper Bible: From Sweet to Fiery and Everything in Between. It turns out it's not a spice mix, new type of shoe or music group, but a tomato sauce with an Arabic flavour to it. I'm a huge fan of cinnamon and paprika in my tomato sauce anyways, and with the addition of my garden's Ring of Fire chilies I knew it would be delicious!

The hardest part about making this is the waiting for it to cook down. As part of my "save the Summer for later" bent I was on last year, I had roasted, diced and frozen tomatoes ready to go along with the peppers and it cut down my prep time (not that its difficult to roast tomatoes). After almost an hour of simmering and stirring (and tasting), it was good to go! I canned the first batch for the Winter stews and ragouts (FYI: lentil bolognese with this is amazing!) but had to do a second for immediate consumption. I stirred it into rice and spinach and even tossed it with pasta and tossed over some breadcrumbs for a simple supper. Traditionally, it's served with roast meat, and I can definitely see it working wonders there too!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Jack Sparrow's Peach Preserves #ChileWeek

Summer heat brings out the juiciest peaches and the hottest peppers. The combination is fantastic - sweet and succulent with a present, but subtle heat in the background.

Jack Sparrow's Peach Preserves

I love reading through canning books. They're always a perfect resource for inspiration, whether it be for jam and jelly or tomato sauce and chutney. My dad gave me a copy of Rebecca Lindamood's Not Your Mama's Canning Book for Christmas and I immediately dove in, trying to plan what I'd be jarring up this year while knowing I have to wait for the actual produce to appear in the market. Let me tell you, there are more "to make" post it notes in that book than I have time or space to make, so I'll be paring it down as I see what the farms and gardens give us.

That said, I think when it comes to canning, I just can't wait my turn. Peaches from Niagara aren't quite ready yet, and the incessant rain has slowed down both the tomato and the pepper harvest (boo!). I couldn't help but get the canner going to make this preserve to take it to my dad's trailer this weekend though. After all, he both gifted me the book and the Scotch Bonnets I used in place of the habaneros! Luckily, I also had delicious, perfectly ripe peaches in the form of Dole's Fruit Pouches. The peach slices I used were packed in water, and pureed wonderfully (I could try with the rock-hard imports, but they'd still have no flavour. Ripe is best!). A glug of rum, some lime juice and a touch of pectin later and I had beautiful, sunny-looking jars jarred up. Now when we break into them mid-winter we'll still have Summer living on our tongues!

As to what to do with it (it's a little zippy for a bona fide Toast Topper, but in my opinion I wouldn't say no to this on a cream cheese bagel!), this preserve would also makes a fantastic garnish to a burger with old Cheddar, Swiss or even Gouda. The original recipe's creator, Rebecca Lindamood, uses it to make a to-die-for sauce for chicken, which would totally work for tofu or shrimp too. I’d also love to use it to top turkey meatloaf before baking as a glaze! 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Sweet Thai Chili Jam - Toast Topper #78 #ChileWeek

Think of a spreadable Sweet Thai Chili sauce perfect for topping cream cheese bagels, baking into brie or stirring into a stir fry. It hurts so good!

Sweet Thai Chili Jam

If you've read some of the previous chile-laden goodies I've shared here on What Smells So Good?, you know I have a soft spot for spicy sauces that still manage to eke out some other flavours. May saw my version of a classic - Sweet Thai Chili Sauce - the homemade, grown-up version of my childhood "plum sauce and chili flake" concoction.

This jam takes it one step further, condensing that sweet, spicy, sour sauce even further until it becomes a lusciously thick, spreadable jam. There's not a whole lot to say about this that I haven't said in the Sweet Thai Chili Sauce post, except that, being a jammy texture, this spread is an exceptional Toast Topper. This is particularly true when it comes to entertaining and either canapes or cheese platters, where a dab of this makes everything from a water cracker to Cheddar or Brie on Melba toast sing. I have yet to try a Brie en Croute with this (perhaps mixed with apricot preserves), but it's definitely on my list.

If canapes aren't your thing, I have it on good authority that this also works well on egg breakfast sandwiches, tossed with baked tofu in wraps and even spread onto a spicy burger. Basically, spread this jam where you'd pour the sauce, and life is good!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Potsticker Dipping Sauce #ChileWeek

This is a killer dipping sauce for potstickers, egg rolls, spring rolls or tempura - especially if you're looking for a dragon! Don't be scared though - there's just enough sweet and sour to accent the flames, and it even gets better with age.

Potsticker Dipping Sauce

I was a huge fan of "Chinese" or "Asian-style" food growing up. I put those phrases in quotation marks because, as any self-respecting North American knows, the chow mein and ginger beef we  love (and order more often than we want to admit) is nothing like the real stuff from the various regions of the actual country. However, what will be will be, and for all its lack of authenticity and excess oil I defy you to find a college or university dorm which isn't visited by a local joint a few times a week.

But I digress. Yes, Chinese-Canadian food has always had a soft spot in my heart, but it was only when I got older that I decided I liked the appetizers on the menu in addition to the mains. Before, I would pass on the spring and egg rolls, turn my nose up at dumplings and leave my soup bowl empty, knowing that decadence in the form of  Honey Garlic Beef, Tai Dop Voy, Moo Shu Vegetables and my all time favourite Singapore Noodles (Singapore Mei Fun). About the time I started Grade 8., though, a new restaurant had opened up by my school. While their rice was on the mushy side, and their drinks warm (hey, an all you can eat meal was $6.50 with tax, can't complain), they managed to make the best egg rolls, fried wontons and Japanese-esque potstickers I have ever had. Perfectly crisp all over, without being oily, they were stuffed with roast pork, shrimp, cabbage, bean sprouts and any number of other things. In fact, they were even of the rare breed that were still good cold - and I envied those who walked to school and could grab some for lunch on eat-in days.

While the majority of my school friends were in the "plum sauce or die" camp, I went for the heat. Chinese mustard mixed with a bit of the plum sauce for sweetness was definitely my "jam". When I moved away for university, one of our cafeteria stations had something even better - a chile flecked, slightly thick sweet garlic sauce which basically laughed as it hurt you should you eat too much on its own. With the potstickers and steamed dumplings there, though, everything became a glorious, happy medium.

This sauce is not identical to the one from my youth, but it is dang good on its own. Its not sweet, but when paired with plum sauce (or the weird cherry sauce stuff for chicken balls) its a lovely accompaniment to savoury dumplings and eggrolls. Purists will appreciate dunking their potstickers and relishing the flames. Either way, its a great #ChileWeek condiment!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Harissa - #ChileWeek

Jazz up your next meal with this fresh, oil-free harissa, made with a load of hot peppers, homegrown tomatoes and Ontario garlic. 

Harissa made with a load of habanero and jalapeno peppers, homegrown tomatoes and Ontario garlic.

This week I'm posting all the hot and spicy chile pepper recipes I made and canned over the last year. Follow #ChileWeek for updates - enjoy!

Last year, we saw more than our fair share of hot peppers. I don't know why my stepdad grows ones like the Carolina Reaper or the Trinidad Scorpion, since he can barely handle Tabasco sauce. I, on the other hand, like my heat when it's tempered by cooking or aging. Fermented or pickled habanero hot sauce is fantastic, and when I lived in Ottawa I bought my fair share from a local chilehead store. I've never fermented anything in my life before, and I wasn't going to start right before school began last year, so I turned to The Chile Pepper Bible: From Sweet to Fiery and Everything in Between for inspiration.

Since I had a variety of peppers at my disposal - from sweet cubanelles to tongue-blistering Reapers - I soon settled on Harissa to use up a chunk of my haul. Harissa (at least in the book's recipe) can be made with essentially any mix of chilies you have on hand, since they serve more to add heat than true flavour to dishes Harissa is a part of. The rest of the seasoning - coriander, fenugreek, garlic and even tomato paste - enhance and elaborate on that heat, creating an exotic marinade or sauce ingredient once the elements have a chance to marry. Pressure canning the sauce / paste mixture accelerated the "get to know you" period for the spices, plus it left space in my fridge and freezer for stuff like cookie dough!

What about you? Are you a flame-loving heat seeker? Or are Doritos as spicy as you get?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Rollitos de Vino Blanco #SundaySupper

This gluten free and vegan version of the traditional Portuguese  "Rollitos de Vino Blanco" make great accompaniments to a glass of dessert wine after a rich dinner. The light anise flavour keeps things mild and helps digestion too!

Rollitos de Vino Blanco

With the gorgeous Summer weather comes a plethora of backyard BBQs and impromptu al fresco dinners. For our get-togethers, the cooler is always stacked with microbrews to go with the main course of burgers or dogs. However, after the paper plates are tossed into the compost and the leftovers packed away, we bring out the vino to toast the sunset - nothing is more refreshing than a crisp white wine after a hot day (or so I'm told). 

To keep with the "light and refreshing" theme, I devised these "digestif" type biscuits to go with the glasses of Riesling and Pinot on the patio. Slightly crumbly and sweet, with subtle but definite hints of savoury flavour from the olive oil and anise, they perfectly cap off a meal of heavier dishes and are even traditionally touted as digestive aids. Inn fact, it's almost a lie to call these "cookies" - they're not something I would grab out of the jar to go with a glass of milk, and are definitely not your "after school special" sweet. That said, they are a perfectly grown-up way to enjoy a hand-held treat (the other hand, of course, is for that goblet of white (or red, or rose - no judging!)).

With Canada Day just behind us (I can still hear the choruses of "happy birthday" coast to coast) amd July 4th just around the corner, we are definitely in a window for celebration here in North America!  This #SundaySupper is celebrating "Red, White, and Blue" this week, and while up north we only have "red and white" I'm in for any celebration feast! Check out all the treats below, including my "white" cookies!

Patriotic Picnic Picks


Liberating 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, July 1, 2017

Ruby Pears in a Golden Cage

A Medieval style dessert! A touch of turmeric tints the pastry while a raspberry jam and honey glaze colours the pears with a decadent blush. Just wait until you discover the hidden heart of strawberry granola!

Ruby Pears in a Golden Cage

Happy Canada Day! Today, we Canadians celebrate the country's sesquicentennial - 150 year anniversary - and the festivities have been going on literally all year. Spending the last school year teaching Canadian Civics, I was given the rare opportunity to re-live my discovery of just what makes the country tick, challenging my students to figure out why they loved this country and helping them understand why we do some of the things we do. I love seeing how a nation that is so divided on certain things - language representation, Indigenous peoples and even who to cheer for every Saturday night in Winter - can all take today to simply party their butts off knowing that we live in the BEST COUNTRY ON EARTH.

Of course, today also marks another birthday - this blog's! Today marks this blog's 10-year anniversary, and I honestly can't believe it's been so long! I know posting has been slowly dwindling as I've become embroiled in my new career (and will likely stay slow now that I'm both working and back in school) but it's been a joy to write every post I do, connect with great brands and most of all, meet (either personally or virtually) awesome people with the same passion for cooking, baking, canning and food that I do. Groups and events like Sunday Supper, Bread Bakers and the Creative Cookie Exchange have made me feel like I'm a part of something, and I cherish the ability to take part.

Ruby Pears in a Golden CageIn true What Smells So Good? style, I'm marking my blogday with a pastry. This recipe was the one I developed for our school's year-end play, starting by making a plated dessert of a stuffed, glazed pear wrapped in turmeric-laced dough. This mimicked some of the Medieval style desserts I had read about, which utilized fruit as a main component, and saffron was commonly added to regal dishes. As we were serving a "feast at the castle", turmeric worked admirably and gave the dough a lovely hue. For the night of the play, I streamlined things a bit (I had to make 90!) so they turned into "pop-tarts" with a diced filling and a latticed topper. Either way, the result is delicious - and surprisingly light on the palate, making it ideal for Summer sweet tables.