Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Potato Spinach Frittata

Cheese and eggs combined with roasted potatoes, spinach and tomatoes make for a fantastic all-in-one meal. It's no beauty but my Grade 7s and is ate it up!

Spinach and Potato Fritatta

Eggs are a tricky sell - to kids and adults. Growing up, I would eat eggs one of three ways: scrambled with gratuitous amounts of cheese, as an omelette with cheese and some kind of meat (chorizo was the bomb) or fried, sunny-side-up style, in butter. Plain scrambled eggs held absolutely zero pull for me (and lets not even get into hard boiled ones - I still can't stand their smell). Nowadays, the only person I know who actually likes eggs without anything but a splash of milk is my sister. Everyone else either won't eat them or has to add tons of ingredients for flavour and texture.

The lesson plans I wrote for my older Home Ec students were intended to teach them how to cook actual meals for themselves and their families, as they'll be off to high school soon. Hedging my bets that I could convert some of the "egg haters" by adding other elements they did like, I came up with a variation on both an Italian frittata and a Spanish tortilla - a stovetop frittata packed with spinach, potatoes and cheese. While I thought the spinach was a bit of a crapshoot for my traditionally veggie-phobic students - it was so green - I got no complaints either before or after they had their meal. I will admit, though, that the potatoes were the key ingredient - every kid there loves them. Regardless, the plates were cleaned - it's hard to argue with potatoes and cheese on any scale, and the eggs just hold everything together. The one thing I will emphasize is that salt is especially important here - between the potatoes, spinach, tomato and eggs, there isn't enough from the cheese alone. Pepper, however, is to taste. The student I had measuring the pepper added a half tablespoon to the mix in place of the half teaspoon indicated in their copy of the recipe - the results were by no means inedible, but they did require a lot of requests for water!

The few leftovers I had, I brought home to my mom. She's not a huge egg eater either, but like the kids if you add enough yummy things to them it's simply a bland binder. The pepper was a surprise, but again, not overpowering, and when served alongside a slice of that week's Cranberry, Walnut and Wild Rice Loaf  it made for a very satisfying lunch indeed!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Basil and Lemon Balm Pesto

Nut free, vegan, soy free and gluten free - this garlicky basil-lemon balm pesto has it all!

Basil and Lemon Balm Pesto

Confession: I'm not that into pesto. Something about the nuts (I hate pine nuts as a rule, and walnuts aren't really our thing either) and the over-processed, super-oily herbs always turned me off of the storebought stuff, so when I encountered it on a restaurant menu I naturally avoided it. The other thing I found about pesto (similar to commercial hummus) is that it simply wasn't garlicky enough. I eat garlic like crazy, and since the overwhelming oiliness and pine nut bitterness always seemed to dominate I never got more than a whisper of it when it was in a bowl of pasta.

However, as I began cooking for myself and growing my own herbs, I realized that the basil-oil-pine nut-cheese formula was a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. I also realized that what should happen with pesto, what doesn't usually happen with the jars on the shelf, is that the herbs should be the stars. Sure, cheese and nuts are nice, and fruity olive oil is delicious, but with lackluster herbs (or poor treatment of good ones) there is nothing that will make the paste worth indulging in.

I had to put the garden to bed this past weekend, which meant hauling out all the dead tomato plants (*tear*) and cutting back the herbs. This gave me a lot of fresh basil and lemon balm, more than I could scatter on pasta or make tea with for a lifetime, so I thought I would combine the two to make a pesto perfect for the upcoming holiday season. In place of nuts (which some of my friends can't eat) I used sunflower seeds, added a lot of extra garlic and a dash of lemon juice to keep the colours and the flavours vibrant. I had initially intended to add nutritional yeast instead of cheese (which I can't eat), but got so into tasting and making sure the consistency was what I was looking for that I simply forgot to add it. The flavour didn't suffer - in fact the herbs popped even more, and by using just a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in the balance of canola I got the flavour without the overwhelming fruitiness. I opted to keep the pesto on the thicker side, so that when it was added to something like pasta the cooking water would loosen it to the proper texture without being oily or soupy. A tiny scoop mixed with freshly cooked rice and roasted carrots (the carrot and beet glut is another story!) needed no extra liquid at all, and I thoroughly enjoyed the fresh, slightly citrusy flavour I got, with a definite pop of garlic and just a whisper of olive.

Are you a pesto fan? What's your favourite kind?

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Habitant Pea Soup #SundaySupper

Nothin' better than a nice warm bowl of homemade, vegan Habitant soup! Comfort food plus... And it's both good for you and your wallet to boot!

Homemade Habitant Soup

Habitant soup and I go way back. In fact, its one of the first soups I ever remember eating - curled up on the couch with a pepper shaker and splitting the whole can of soup with Grandpa. Bowls of it got me though the chicken pox, countless ear infections and flus, even a nasty bout of mononucleosis in highschool, and none of my friends could understand the allure. In fact, my mom's family and I were the only people I knew growing up who would eat it... everyone else's loss, I say. After all, it was essentially soft-cooked, stewed yellow peas in a bowl - old people food.

But for me, it wasn't just peas in a bowl. Something about its buttery flavour (accented perfectly with lashings of black pepper), the soft-yet-textured body and its ability to warm you all the way through and fill you for more than an hour earned the soup a special place in my heart. The French Canadians had it right with this recipe, and somehow the care and love the original cooks back in the 1800s put into their pots translated through time (and cans) to our table.

Sadly, being an old, French Canadian recipe, my beloved yellow cans contain lard - something my digestive system can no longer handle. I had tried other, vegan split pea soups, but the texture was off and flavour lacking. I knew whole peas and simple flavours were the way to go, and after searching for what felt like eons I came on a recipe by a Canadian canning company. I was confident that, having been written by a Canadian, it would be as close to the "real stuff" as possible. I did have to ixnay the pesky ham, though, and I wanted to accent the savoury flavours, so I took a leaf out of  Bryanna Clark Grogan’s recipe and added allspice and liquid smoke, plus cumin because I love it.

The key to getting the consistency of silky puree with bits of pea while adding the flavour from the carrot and onion was to add the vegetables "stock style" - leaving them in big chunks and removing them like the bay leaf after they've given up their essential nuances. The tiny bit of liquid smoke nailed the hint of bacony aroma from the original, all while keeping the recipe oil free. The best part was that it made a bunch and canned perfectly in my pressure canner, so I put up a bunch of pints (perfect "for one" size) to enjoy over the winter. I can't wait to make it again - it's pure comfort food.

Speaking of comfort food, our #SundaySupper gang is all about the comforting soup and stews this week. Be sure to check out all the offerings below, and say hi!

Do you have a soup that evokes special memories for you? Let me know in the comments!

 Superb Soups

Stupendous Soups

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 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.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Cranberry, Walnut and Wild Rice Loaf for #wbd2017

This crusty, delightfully chewy whole grain loaf is loaded with Canadian flavour, and is so hearty that a slice of two are great for packing on a hike or long car ride.

Cranberry, Walnut and Wild Rice Loaf

I can't believe it's been another year. I love the annual World Bread Day roundups by Zorra, and always do my best to come up with a loaf to share. I have to admit, though - I almost didn't make it this year! I'm in the middle of writing term papers for the first year of my sociology program at university (yup, back at the education thing again) and this blog (and cooking in general) has sadly been shifted to the back burner. It's not quite stuck in the warming drawer, but for a little while at least my posts definitely won't be as frequent.

However, when the school thing with all its deadlines, coupled with the work thing and it's responsibilities, gets just too much, I bust out the breadmaking routine. Nothing eases tension like crafting loaves of bread. Its such a soothing, creative process... and a tasty one at that. This time around I settled on a very "Canadian" themed loaf inspired by a chef on the TV channel Gusto. The original bread is a lofty boule with chopped walnuts and cooked wild rice. Mine, although it didn't rise as high, had the added flavour elements of flaxseed, dried cranberries and walnut oil, and uses less honey in favour of the addition of maple sugar. A slice of it, smeared with walnut-almond butter (we just mixed walnut and almond butters together) makes for a chewy, stick-to-your-ribs breakfast that's full of brain food for the day, Omega-3s and complex carbs to keep you going. For lunch, I ate the leftover wild rice with the dried cranberries, garlic and mushrooms, because why not?

The best part about this loaf is that its a big one, so I know that I'll have lots of leeway between bake fests. As much as I hate to put them off!

Cranberry, Walnut and Wild Rice Loaf
Makes one large loaf, 24 slices
1 cup warm water
1 ½ cups warm 1% milk
¼ cup honey
¼ cup maple sugar
2 tbsp walnut oil
2 cups flour
4 cups whole wheat bread flour
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 tbsp instant yeast
2 tsp salt
1 cup cooked wild rice, temperature
½ cup dried cranberries
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  1. Whisk together the water, milk, honey, sugar and oil in a cup, set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the flours, flaxseed, yeast and salt.
  3. Add the liquid ingredients and knead with the dough hook until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.
  4. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 ½ hours.
  5. Punch dough down and knead in rice and walnuts.
  6. Shape into a round and place on a cornmeal-dusted, rimless cookie sheet.
  7. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.
  8. Heat the oven (ideally with a baking stone) to 375F.
  9. Slide loaf off the sheet onto the stone (or place sheet in the oven) and bake ~50 minutes, until it registers 200F.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 202.0
Total Fat: 5.7 g
Cholesterol: 1.3 mg
Sodium: 204.4 mg
Total Carbs: 34.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.6 g
Protein: 5.9 g
World Bread Day, October 16, 2017

Didn't bake a bread but want to see all the goodies? Look out for the hashtags #wbd2017 #worldbreadday and #worldbreadday2017 on social media, and check out the founder Zorra's instagram at @zorrakochtopf! You can also follow me, you know - I'm right here.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Rich Roasted Pie Filling

Richly spiced, roasted apple pie filling. Where's my spoon?

Roasted Apple Pie Filling

When was the last time you dug into an apple pie filling that tasted great, no crust required? When I was a kid, Northern Spy apples were as prevalent in the orchards as the day was long, and when we went picking we were guaranteed at least two huge bagfuls of giant, beautiful fruit. Spies needed no adornment in my mom's pies, save for an occasional sprinkle of cinnamon. They were perfect on their own.

These days, spies are a rarity, and the other suggested substitutes simply aren't as good. The last pie my mom made wound up with a filling of relatively bland, over-softened apples that shrunk down so much it looked like there was hardly any at all. I've tried the old tactics of sauteeing the apples before adding them, etc, but still the results aren't what I was going for.

Then I started roasting them. It started as a fairly quick way to add flavourful fruit to oatmeal, and as I continued to tweak and add layers of flavour I eventually wound up with a pan of delightfully rich-tasting, ever so slightly gooey apples perfect for topping a dessert. In fact, I would have titled this recipe a "dessert sauce" instead of a "pie filling", except that when I gave it out as gifts, the recipients by and large made pies with it - the texture is reminiscent of canned pie filling, although the taste is not as sweet and definitely more multifaceted than commercial products. Us, though - we dug into a jar (or three) and spooned it over yogurt, warmed it up and dolloped it on ice cream (rum raisin ice cream is perfect with this) and even used it in lieu of syrup on Sunday morning pancakes. For Home Ec this year, I'm thinking of making a batch to turn into "apple pie rolls" - essentially stuffed, rolled up pieces of bread baked enchilada-style - or to use over French toast.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Sourdough Pain Noir #BreadBakers

This 100% sourdough Pain Noir is stuffed with chocolate, pecans and dates and baked cloche style for an impossibly crispy crust. It is begging for a smear of jam!

Sourdough Pain Noir

I adore sourdough bread. Given the choice, I would pick a loaf made with wild yeast, carefully cultivated for years and slowly leavening dough far and above the fanciest straight-dough loaf. Even things like cinnamon rolls and Chelsea buns get a boost when a little tang is added to the mix. The only thing I probably like in baking more than sourdough is chocolate. Give me some good dark stuff or a scoop of cocoa powder, and I am a happy, happy woman.

So of course, it was natural for me to want to combine the two for this month's Bread Bakers event! This month, the #BreadBakers were challenged to make a bread with either a sourdough starter, a poolish, a biga, a soaker or tangzhong. Obviously, since I had a good ol' starter hanging out in the fridge, I used that, but 75g each of flour and water, plus a pinch of yeast left overnight at room temperature would likely do the trick nicely too. To fulfill my desire for chocolate, I added not only did cocoa powder and chocolate to my lovely, tart sourdough, but dates and pecans fell into the mix too. While there is some sugar in the loaf (cocoa is bitter after all) the bread is in no way cloyingly sweet or "dessert-y". Rather, those I served it to preferred it with either a smear of cream cheese or tart cherry jam (or both) for breakfast, and toasted with salted butter for a snack. Either way, I was glad that it is baked "cloche-style" (AKA in a Dutch oven), because it kept the smell mediated... until you opened the oven!

If you'd like to create your own sourdough starter, you'll start about a month in advance (mine's been going for 9 years!). Here is a great source to get you going and here's how to keep it going. Now, a biga or poolish is not a sourdough starter, but it's similar in that its a mixture of flour, water, and yeast (in this case it's added, rather than wild, yeast). Like sourdough, it's made in advance to develop flavor. A soaker is typically cereals or rye that is soaked in boiled water a day in advance and then added to the bread, so that they don't break your teeth and insome cases are more nutritious.

The odd one out (and the only one I've never tried) is tangzhong. A tangzhong is a mixture of flour and water that is heated to 64 C, cooled, and added to the dough to soften the dough.


#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.

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

Here's what our group baked up this month:

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Healthier Banana Chocolate Chip Scones

With less sugar, calories and fat, and more fibre than a storebought scone, these Healthier Banana Chocolate Chip Scones topped with almonds and raw sugar make a great teatime treat!

Healthier Banana Chocolate Chip Scones

Scones are a rarity in this household. Mom and I both adore them (and their cousins, buttermilk biscuits), but I can no longer eat them and she doesn't trust herself around their buttery, sweet natures. On the rare occasion a biscuit or two might pop up at dinnertime, but scones? No dice. Too many calories, too much fat, and not filling enough to warrant the indulgence.

Then I came across a recipe that allows for sweet, tender and just-crumbly biscuits that also happens to be whole grain and a little bit better for the waistline. While searching for a use-up for bananas that wasn't traditional banana bread, Chemistry Cachet's blog popped up. The science (obviously) looked promising and I decided to give it a shot, making a few modifications to use what I had and nix what I didn't. The result was exactly what I had in mind: nutty and sweet, soft and flaky, and perfect room temperature or slightly warmed and topped with a dollop of homemade yogurt. Not only that, but they had both nuts and chocolate going for them - definite bonuses in our book.

Taste and texture aside, these scones are nutritional halos in the scone world. While sweet and nutty, each wedge will only set you back about 170 calories and 7 grams of fat, and contain just over 5 grams of sugar while 3.7 grams of fibre offset the carb load. These are not piddlingly tiny scones, either - one wedge is plenty for having with afternoon tea and is filling enough to last through to dinner. For comparison, a banana chocolate chip scone from COBS has  260 calories, 10 grams of fat and 17 grams of sugar, with only 1 gram of fibre.

Have you "healthified" a recipe lately? What would you love to make "better for you" but still great-tasting?

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Mock Dried Pineapple

This sneaky swap for "real" dried pineapple is indiscernible from the real thing in baked goods, and lasts a long time in the pantry. Just when you thought you were all "zucchinied" out! 

Not even 1/4 of It

Our zucchini are done for the year. Hallelujiah.

Unlike last season, the squash loved the weird cool / rainy then hot / humid Summer we had, producing en masse. With the last push of produce from those plants came the somewhat woody / spongy rejects which just aren't great for eating. However, those zucchini are (for the most part) awesome for baking! They're slightly drier (i.e. no need to really wring them out after shredding) and soak up flavour even better. When I came across a recipe for candied zucchini on The Persnickety Plate, I knew these last zucchini were prime for it. 

Essentially, the summer squash (you can use any variety) are peeled, cubed, and simmered in a sweetened pineapple juice until they're infused with the flavour. I then let them steep overnight for even more flavour before dehydrating them into chewy bites of fruity goodness. To keep them from sticking - especially if your climate is on the humid side - a toss with cornstarch or arrowroot keeps them separate. I didn't have that problem, since they went into muffins the same week, but you do what you do.

Unfortunately, because I made and used it so fast I forgot to take a photo... so next year (if I remember) I'll be sure to take a photo! One thing's for sure, I will make it a repeat!