Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Loaded Maple Oat Cookies

These cookies are vegan and filled with healthy flavour from toasted oats, roasted soybeans (aka soynuts), dark chocolate and cranberries, while aquafaba acts as a binder and maple syrup adds a delicate layer of sweetness as well. They stay soft and moist for days and are great with a cup of tea or when stuck in traffic!

Even though we just made it out of the season of indulgence and into the month of resolution making doesn't mean we need to deprive ourselves of a treat every so often! I am a total and complete believer in having at least one sweet treat every day - whether it is cocoa and brown sugar in my oatmeal mid afternoon or a slice of my to die for angel food cake. For someone like me who has a massive sweet tooth, these little daily indulgences keep me from going overboard and allow me to enjoy them truly. 

When two of my Zumba instructor friends both celebrated birthdays a few months ago (yes these took a while to get on the blog!) I knew I wanted to be able to give them a birthday treat that they could enjoy after the usual cake and dinner out. As they're both in the fitness industry, I also wanted to make sure that what I gave them wasn't too contradictory to their goals, and knowing one of the ladies is also vegan I rolled up my sleeves and got to work!

I haven't used aquafaba in a while (mostly because I keep forgetting to save that bean liquid!) but after making three batches of Garden Pasta Salad I had more than enough to work with! The liquid acts as a great binder and helped keep these cookies moist and chewy. I had also come into possession of a bottle of maple syrup thanks to an old student and knew these cookies would go from good to awesome with a hint of the extra flavour. In addition, I tossed in a good deal of "goodies" for texture and a bit of extra sweetness - plus, who doesn't love stuff in a cookie?

The two parcels of cookies were well received and I was thanked afterwards on behalf of some cookie crazy small kids too. Mom echoed the sentiment (I had to save her a couple, of course!) and really loved them frozen and crumbled on Greek yogurt with a sprinkling of diced apples. 

Do you make resolutions? How long do they stick?

Monday, December 30, 2019

Spanish Inspired Beef(less) Stew

This Spanish Inspired Beef(less) Stew is filled with hearty potatoes, onions and carrots, chunks of Vegetable Protein and a sprinkling of peas in a heady tomato-paprika base. Ready in about 45 minutes and a healthy way to warm up this Winter!

I openly admit I have a love affair with Spanish food of all kinds. I'm not sure if it's purely the flavours I'm attracted to - the whole production of dishes such as paella are a spectacle in themselves - but I do know that if there's paprika and / or saffron involved you can bet I'll want a taste! This stew I whipped up on a whim after scrolling through my "suggested" reads on Google, and seeing as I had all the ingredients (and then some) in the pantry I eagerly gave it a shot. I adapted it slightly based on what I had on hand, and of course to add my favourite Spanish paprika, but from start to finish in under an hour I really have no regrets about making this!

The secret to the "beef" in this stew is textured vegetable protein chunks, which I actually keep on hand for making "chicken" salads as a cheap and portable source of protein. I love them because they are essentially all protein and fibre, no fat, and soak up the flavours they're soaked in, which in this case was a beefless broth and a spice packed tomato stew. If the idea of using TVP puts you off or you can't get them where you are, cubed tofu or even cooked chickpeas would be a great substitute without the "beefiness". I also jacked up the amount of vegetables going on because, well, vegetables, and I also had the dregs of my garden's heirloom carrots wasting away in the fridge that I needed to use. A brief taste test after cooking confirmed an amazing balance of flavours - rich but not weigh-you-down heavy, stick to your ribs but also leaving you feeling healthy after a bowl. And can we say filling? The amount of protein and fibre in this stew means you won't be hungry for ages - which is great if you're still traipsing around to holiday parties or are trying to curb the holiday snacking.

Saturday, December 28, 2019


Schwabenbrötli are delicate Swiss cookies traditionally made with ground almonds. This recipe uses ground tigernuts to be nut free but with the same texture and almost identical flavour.

Happy birthday N!

While I know we've just gotten out of the season of cookies and gluttony, but to me I'd much rather celebrate other people than the (unfortunate) consumerism of the season. I know enough people with birthdays around holidays (myself and my sister included) that I understand getting "lumped in" to the holiday itself and losing what should be "your day". That said, we are spending today together (through to NYE) and I'll be spoiling him rotten with good food and good company.

These cookies came about due to a specific request from N - not for himself, but for his colleague this holiday. I gladly dived into researching cookies from his native Switzerland, and these looked like super simple, yet delicious options. I didn't have any almond flour on hand, however, having used the last of it in my Maple Almond Biscotti, so I delved into my collection of ground tigernuts, which I love as a nut-free option when ground nuts are called for. With a slightly sweet taste, they fit perfectly with the cinnamon and crunchy raw sugar on top. Like a lot of "roll out" cookies, it is imperative that you let these rest overnight for the liquid to be absorbed. Once chilled, they roll out and cut like a dream and within minutes you have delicately crisp, unique cookies to enjoy!

If I can remember to snap a photo I'll post all about N's birthday feast when we're back to our regularly scheduled programming, but for now try a little nibble of Switzerland!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Curried Two-Potato Lentil Soup

Curried Two-Potato Lentil Soup (adapted from Minimalist Baker) is canned up in quarts for big pots of comfort over the winter. Homegrown carrots and kale make it extra nutritious and special!

Curried Two-Potato Lentil Soup

Ah, Boxing Day. It's quite possibly my favourite day of the whole Christmas holiday week, since (for the most part) the hubbub is done, the gifts are opened, the gluttony has ensued and we can just take the day to get back into routine and relax. It is specifically for days like this that I love having soup jarred up in reserve on my shelf - all I have to do is crack one open, dump it into a pot with a little water or broth (or tomato juice, which actually worked so well in this!) and let it heat up. Can we say almost instant comfort food?

What I also love about this soup is how versatile it is. Don't want to can it (or don't have a pressure canner)? Simmer away on the stovetop until everything is cooked and store in the freezer. Not vegetarian? Toss in some cooked meat (say...Christmas turkey?) and use chicken broth. In fact, my mom even added the last of a can of coconut milk (about 1/3 cup) to hers to make it more creamy and tossed in extra pepper for kick. This version is relatively mild in heat, but still flavourful and hearty enough that you won't be tempted to go back to the cookies (or ever present panettone at my house) or need a food coma-style nap!

How was your holiday break (whether or not you celebrate Christmas)? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Biscotti di Vino Rosso Speziati

Biscotti di Vino Rosso Speziati are dainty cookies filled with the flavours of mulled wine with an added crunch from black sesame seeds. Perfect for accompanying fortified wine after a meal or on a cheese board for a unique, lightly sweetened treat this holiday!

Ever been trying to multitask and got so cocky with your "skills" that you totally mess things up? Yeah - that was almost me when it came to photographing these cookies. Thankfully my reliable taste-tester had asked for a second one so I snagged a photo before it too disappeared!

I cannot believe I made a huge (read: double) batch of these "grown up", two bite cookies and almost forgot to photograph them! This is the perils of trying to do everything at once during peak term-paper, report card and traveling season, but I can assure you that they are well worth making yourself if you enjoy the scent and flavour of mulled wine! I opted for black sesame seeds and white sanding sugar for my coating to give the cookies a bit of sparkle and nutty crunch, and would recommend not skipping the freezing step under any circumstances, as these cookies are relatively delicate and this helps hold them together. The Italian guests we had over last week enjoyed these dipped into dessert wine after dinner as they aren't too sweet, and I bet they'd be perfect on a cheese platter too.

I will be back posting after Christmas, so have a great holiday and thanks for another great year!

Biscotti di Vino Rosso Speziati
Adapted from Domenica Cooks 
Makes ~24
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Pinch of fine sea salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1/2 orange
3/4 cup dry red wine (I used a Merlot)
1 1/2 cups "00" semolina flour (I used one labeled "for pasta")
1  cup all purpose flour
1/2 cups spelt flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
black sesame seeds, to top
  1. In a bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, spices, salt, vanilla, orange zest and wine until well blended.
  2. Add the flours, baking powder and baking soda, mixing until well blended.
  3. Cover and let sit 30 minutes.
  4. Use a tablespoon measure or scoop to form the dough into balls, and roll them in the black sesame seeds to coat.
  5. Place the cookies 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze 1 hour. 
  6. Heat the oven to 350F.
  7. Bake for about 22 minutes, until set but not dry. 
  8. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 1 month.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Guinness Cake Biscotti

If you love Nutella or Chocolate Guinness Cake, these Guinness Cake Biscotti are right up your alley! The stout adds a delicate richness to the crunchy cookies and the smattering of chopped hazelnuts adds texture.

The I saved the best of the biscotti for last for this year! Ever since our first trip to EPCOT in Disney World my sister and I fell in love with chocolate stout cake, and true to form I have made it at least 6 times since then for various birthdays and anniversaries. However, I haven't really used beer in other sweet applications. Bread was a natural fit for the brew (as I saw when making bread sticks out of the pizza dough in Lush: A Season-by-Season Celebration of Craft Beer and Produce, which is - surprise surprise - written by the same author who gave me the idea for these cookies) due to the natural yeasty notes in most (good) beer, but in cookies I always thought the flavours would be too strong and the amount of liquid too much for the batter. I was glad to be proven wrong!

Now I did (of course) take liberties with this recipe. The most obvious is that I veganized it completely, and omitted the fat (aside what what naturally in the non-dairy milk). For a cookie that is essentially baked till crunchy and dry enough to soak up a beverage, the oil or butter just isn't needed. I also used flaxseed to bind the dough and barley flour for added flavour (because it is beer after all). With those changes, I didn't even need to break out a hand mixer, let alone a stand mixer to do the work - a sturdy spatula was all that was required and the most time consuming part was chopping the hazelnuts! While you could certainly dip it in stout (I'm thinking longingly of a double chocolate one I had many moons ago) I know these would also be decadent with coffee or hot chocolate!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Mocha Biscotti

A couple Caramel Mochaccino Biscotti dunked in your favourite coffee is a great way to start the  weekend, and especially ring in the holiday week ahead!

Wow - the fourth (and second-last) "stick style" biscotti of the year are done and finally getting documented! To be fair, I did make two other biscotti recipes this year as well, but they were both riffs off of the Creamsicle Biscotti - one used lemon zest instead of the orange extract with a hefty handful of dried berries stirred in, while the other I used brown sugar and extra vanilla in and folded in chopped chocolate and caramel bits. These used a different formula, and was literally a last minute effort to use up the egg whites left over from shortbreads before they were lost to the ether of spoilage and the gifts of cappuccino mix that I couldn't enjoy due to my dairy allergy.

Chocolate and coffee are by far a coveted combination of mine and the addition of chocolate chips, mocha cappuccino powder and chocolate covered espresso beans did not disappoint! The batch smelled like nothing short of a high end cafe while they were baking and I had to make sure I quickly wrapped them all for gift giving after they cooled otherwise they would have all "mysteriously" disappeared thanks to a family that also supports the coffee and chocolate duo. Next time, I think I may give these crunchy cookies the raw sugar treatment too, since I think a chocolate drizzle may be a bit too overpowering. Wait - did I just say there would be too much chocolate? I'm clearly in need of a breather. Or a nap. Or (most likely) a trip to the gym.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Pumpkin Spice Biscotti

Pumpkin Spice Biscotti are a spicy, crunchy snack whenever the fall feeling strikes!

Between (Canadian) Thanksgiving and Christmas, it seems that pumpkin spice everything is ubiquitous. As much as I detest eating (or smelling) pumpkin pie, I cannot deny that the spices which infuse everything of the season are some of my favourites. One of the families I teach even gave me a pumpkin spice candle which I adore!

So in lieu of making another pumpkin pie for Christmas (and in spirit of all the biscotti I've been creating), I took the heady spices and fused them with the delicately sweet, golden-hued squash to make these cookies. Rather than feeling like you're eating a crunchy pumpkin cake, these are more in the vein of a "spice cookie" that just happens to look really nice on the platter whether you top them with melted chocolate (or vegan white chocolate for a "whipped cream" look) or not. I passed these out to friends of mine who love their PSLs this time of year and from what I heard a few dunks of these in a cappuccino add the perfect amount of zing to both cookie and coffee!

Friday, December 20, 2019

Creamsicle Biscotti

These Creamsicle Biscotti are vegan and get a wonderful vanilla flavour from non-dairy vanilla yogurt. A sprinkle of raw sugar on top adds a delicate texture as well, and a cookie or two is delicious dunked in hot cocoa.

There are few things my mom loves more than orange flavoured desserts. In particular, she has a soft spot for Creamsicles - something I could never quite wrap my head around being a die-hard chocoholic! That said, I do like to cater to her tastes when I cook for her, and the holidays is no exception. I had a good deal of vegan vanilla bean yogurt left over from previous biscotti making and the dregs of a bottle of orange extract as well, so everything fell into place almost automatically. I also opted not to drizzle these crunchy, fruity cookies with chocolate since I knew she would be cracking into her hot cocoa gift box soon and would get the Terry's Chocolate Orange experience she loves this time of year! As I've mentioned before, biscotti of any kind are drop-dead easy to make, and this goes double with a vegan recipe like this - no whipping eggs or getting your hands all oily, the yogurt does all the work for you and makes the house smell like a sunny day in Florida, despite what the thermometer and snow outside declare!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Gingerbread Biscotti

These vegan Gingerbread Biscotti are crunchy, spicy and 100% whole grain. A sprinkling of crystallized ginger on top adds texture and extra spice!

One of my favourite smells during the holidays is gingerbread baking. I have a lot of ginger lovers to bake for these days, and aside from the perennial Chestnut Gingerbread Cookies I try to add a few more variations to the list to keep people on their toes! Keeping in theme with the biscotti groove I was on this season, I whisked up a spicy, ginger-laden dough and got baking.

Now, when I say these make your house smell good, I mean really good. Stage your house and ask for $1 million good. We had company for dinner the night I baked them and the guests kept asking if we were making mulled cider due to the sweet and spicy scent wafting around the house. To be honest, I would not recommend these for coffee though - Mom dunked hers in black tea which flavoured both cookie and beverage like chai, but I heard it's also fantastic in white hot chocolate! However you choose to eat these, you will not be disappointed - and your guests will never guess they are vegan either!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Maple Almond Biscotti

These Maple Almond Biscotti are vegan and whole grain with a subtle yet unmistakeable maple nuance from maple sugar and extract. A handful of ground almonds and ground flax up the nutty flavours as well, making these a unique, delicious and healthy treat any time!

Given the large influx of Italian culture in our household (including the Feast of the 7 Fishes on Christmas Eve), biscotti making has become more or less a mainstay of our holiday baking. I love making these crunchy cookie sticks for gift giving - for one, they're super easy to make, two, they're infinitely variable, and three they last forever! Well, not forever, but a very long time. This year I managed to concoct a decent assortment of them, including these Maple Almond Biscotti. I liked the inclusion of ground almonds as opposed to chopped or slivered ones because I feel the integrate their flavour more completely which plays off the maple and vanilla flavours more completely.

I also decided to make these biscotti vegan-friendly and a little healthier by relying on a non-dairy yogurt to replace the eggs and oil. The slight tang helped keep the cookies from being too sweet and added to a well rounded richness. I left my biscotti unadorned but bet a drizzle of dark chocolate or a sprinkle of copped almonds on top before baking would make these even more gorgeous!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Ginger Candied Spoon Fruit

Ginger Candied Spoon Fruit is a spicy and sweet combination of Asian pears and apples macerated in sugar and two forms of ginger. A spoonful on waffles or stirred into oatmeal is a delicious way to start the day, or top ice cream for a zingy dessert!

I love ginger, and I'm not alone. In fact, a good 2/3 of my holiday baking this year features the spice, and when I go out for sushi with my mom we fight over the slices of pickled gari that come on the plate. I'm also a huge sucker for Asian pears, and in the winter when they are in their prime I hit up the Asian grocery by my work and stock up - sometimes too much! This recipe proved to be the answer to that problem and my lust for ginger everything - especially with the digestive issues that also seem to pop up in this time of excess and sedentary living!

These macerated apples and pears get cooked in a super gingery syrup that infuses every bit of the fruit, making them almost bits of candy in the jar. While making it is a process, it is 3/4 hands-off and the reward is so worth it! I'm telling you, I made 2 jars to "test it out" on Saturday and one is already gone, lost to ice cream desserts and oatmeal breakfasts. I don't know how true it is about ginger keeping colds at bay, but I can tell you it's tasty medicine if that's the case!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Tomato Chickpea Soup (Pressure Canned)

Tomato Chickpea Soup is flavoured with cumin, ginger, garlic, garam masala, basil and curry powder for a spicy - but not hot - dinner ready in the pantry! Jars of this will be welcome in the cold months to come!

After waking up to an ice storm and frigid temperatures, it's official - we are into soup season. Since I acquired a pressure canner a few years ago, I spent pieces of my summers making jars of homemade soup for when the school year started again and cooking more or less transitioned to "quick and easy". The other great thing about canning soup and stews is that they make awesome holiday gifts - my Habitant Pea Soup is a regular feature in my gift baskets because it seems to be everyone's favourite (plus it's gluten free and vegan) but I also like to add a hearty and spicy soup to the lineup - both for others and for me!

When I was in university, the days the cafeteria had Chana Masala on the menu were some of the best. Ottawa, in case you've never been, gets insanely cold and snowy come wintertime, and the spiced, tomatoey chickpeas never got the "weird" texture of some of the other steam table items. This soup carries many of the same flavours as my favourite Indian entree, but with extra broth perfect for soaking up rice or slurping with a spoon. I actually prefer to partially cook some brown rice and add it to the soup as it heats on the stove to cook it through and thicken the soup, and mom added chopped sweet potatoes to hers for a similar effect and a sweeter taste.

By the way, if you don't have a pressure canner, no worries! Use 4 cups fully cooked chickpeas (not just soaked and flash-cooked) and simmer the soup for 45 minutes, adding the chickpeas for the last 15. For a creamy soup, puree everything - beans and all. Hearty, healthy and delicious when it's too cold for words outside!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Pizza Won Tons

These Pizza Won Tons are the easiest pizza pockets you'll ever make - and theyre just as variable as your standard pie. Get the kids involved making these too and your after school snack team is locked down!

Photo by Laura R.
I'm hard pressed to find a child who does not like pizza in some way, shape or form. In my five years teaching Home Economics, the highlight of each school year has been making something "pizza-like". Nothing has been such a hit as these turnovers - full of gooey cheese and sauce while being deceptively simple, quick to make and absolutely delicious.

I'm also a huge fan of kids being self sufficient, and while these won tons are tasty, they are also ridiculously simplistic in design - even though the recipe calls for "making your own" pizza sauce. In fact the recipe is so easy to whip up that even my Grade 1's are able to make it start to finish without my help (except with the oven). The crunch of the dumpling wrapper after being baked in the oven contrasts with the goo in the middle, and these are even great room temperature - the week or so after we make them in class, I see more than one student pull them out at noon! While I keep my version simple for classes, these are also super variable - minced pepperoni, ham, mushrooms and peppers all work in these too as long as the bits are small.

Of course, just because these are a huge hit with "my" kids doesn't mean grownups don't love them too - a batch of these were brought along to my very first date with N and enjoyed immensely (the saying about the way to a man's heart is true!), and both my parents have gladly taken care of leftovers too. For game days, movie nights or even just friends coming over for drinks, these are a perfect accompaniment - and since everything freezes well, make a double batch, bake and freeze before reheating gently at go time!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Caramelized Spiced Apples

Caramelized Apples are a warming treat any time of day and combine the rich flavours of butter, cinnamon and raw sugar. The trick is to bloom the cinnamon in salted butter before adding the sugar and fruit - way more developed notes in the spice and the apple chunks get fully coated.

While there may be snow on the ground and sub-zero temperatures outside, it is still officially Fall, and that means that for now our local orchards are still selling the last of this years crop at decent prices. I was actually inspired to make these after making apple squares with my Home Ec classes - the kids were stealing the spiced apples out of the bowl (not that I blame them) and were asking if we could make "just the apples". I haven't had sauteed apples in a dog's age, so they immediately found themselves on my to-do list!

Of course, I brought my somewhat more updated knowledge of cooking to the proverbial table when making them this time, as opposed to my child years where "baked apples" and the like were done in the microwave without butter at all. This time, I played on what I learned about blooming spices in curry and cooked the cinnamon in the butter first, allowing it to infuse before getting the caramel and finally apples going. Secondly, I took my time with the cooking, allowing the apples to cook through but keep their shape and the syrup to reduce to a caramel sauce consistency. The possibilities for these were endless - mom snagged a scoop to put on her oatmeal this morning while I packed some into turnovers and an apple crumble too. They keep for a decent time in the fridge but I wouldn't recommend freezing them unless your aim is applesauce - which given the ingredients going on wouldn't be a bad thing at all!

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Seeded Oatmeal Apple Loaf

Can't you just imagine biting into this crusty, seed coated loaf of Seeded Oatmeal Apple Loaf? Made with a dose of sourdough starter and shredded apples for a sweet tang, the low rising loaf is perfect for smearing with peanut butter for breakfast.

With the blustery winds and snow outside courtesy of this week's weather, I felt like there was no better reason to get into the kitchen and bake my favourite thing - bread. It helps that mom is a bread-lover (or is it fanatic?) since I haven't eaten "real" bread in over a decade, and her weekly request allows me to be as creative as I care to be! This time I was inspired by a recipe that appeared in my feed reader using not only the Fall flavours of apples and oats but a favourite ingredient in my house - sourdough. With a bushel of local apples in our cold cellar begging for a use (other than the ubiquitous apple pies and squares mom creates each season), I pilfered a few and got to work!

This recipe is not a true sourdough - as in it uses yeast for a leavening boost. The sourdough does add a wonderful tang to offset the nuttiness of the seeds and oats and the sweetness of the apples, although not an obtrusive one (I love straight sourdough, but I wanted the other flavours here). The seed crust is, in my opinion, the best part of this recipe as it adds a great crunchy texture to the moist crumb and leaves "bits" to pick off the cutting board when you slice it! The loaf has a high hydration due to the apple, soaked oats, sourdough and extra water, so it does not rise overly tall - when I make this again I'm going to try putting it in a springform pan to see if I can get some height. However, the low rise does have one side benefit - a long slice is just wide enough to fit perfectly in your mouth, bruschetta-style! So load up your slices, toasted or not, with slices of Cheddar (a la Canadian apple pie) or peanut butter and honey (mom's favourite) and enjoy!

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Apple Butter Gingerbread

Apple Butter Gingerbread is not too sweet, definitely spicy and when topped with honey butter (or apple butter!) A delicious tea time treat.

I have a love / hate relationship with Fall. On one hand, cold and I never get along - from the beginning of October until the end of April (at least) you'll find me bundled up in sweaters, coats, scarves and hats, cursing the weather and lamenting my poor Raynaud's-afflicted digits. On the other hand, I love the variety of colours outside and the smells of heartier, spicier cooking and baking that come with the blustery weather (especially if I'm cooking, because I'm inside!).

Of course, Fall also brings the produce of the season, and around here apples are everywhere! While Mom whips up more pies than I can count with her bushels, I tend to make a few crisps before cooking the rest into sweet, sticky apple butter. The apple butter is my spread of the season - rich, thick and spreadable, it's less sweet than jam and more versatile than applesauce but with a caramel note you can't beat. After the one requisite pie that I make (shh...I loathe making pastry), the rest is portioned and frozen for later use, including spice cakes like this one.

It's no secret that I am a fan of spices, and at my workplace ginger always reigns supreme. This snack cake combines a variety of fall flavours in each bite - from the apple butter to the nutty flax and spelt, the warming spices and rich brown sugar and maple. The resulting bake isn't overly sweet, which in my book makes it A-OK for breakfast (right?) or as a light dessert with a drizzle of maple syrup or even a small scoop of ice cream. I personally love to warm it up as well and serve it with our local apple cider!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Almost Grandma's Mashed Potatoes

Almost Grandma's Mashed Potatoes are rich, creamy and decadent - perfect for your holiday meal. Baking the tureen ensures a delectable crust to pick at too!

I have a 100% soft spot for my grandma's mashed potatoes. In fact, if I could only eat one holiday food the rest of my life, it would be them. Baked in one of her earthenware tureens, the sight of the slightly crusty-topped spud smade my heart sing - and underneath the coveted top layer was some of the most decadent, silky mash I've ever had in my life. Over the years, it was extremely common for half my dinner plate to be heaped with them, no gravy necessary.

Ironically, it was only after decadence (at least in my traditional understanding of it) left my diet that I started to really try and nail down my grandma's recipe. Being the family heirloom (and "secret recipe") that it was, there was no written copy to be found anywhere, and when I asked my grandma she gave me the list of ingredients but no amounts or method, so after many cookbook and Google searches I cobbled together a recipe for our Canadian Thanksgiving this year and gave it a whirl.

The outcome was shockingly - and I mean shockingly - similar to the original, and dare I say it may even be slightly better (shh!). The potatoes had a perfectly smooth mash without the need for a ricer or fancy tool and each scoop was a perfect golden colour thanks to the cheese and Yukon Golds I used. My whole family (including N and my sister's boyfriend D) raved about them and took home leftovers, which were polished off within a day. While they are absolutely not a weeknight mashed potato (or one for dieters!) for the holidays, these shout "home" to me and will definitely be the start of a new, old tradition.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Chewy and Soft Spice Cookies

These spice cookies are perfectly chewy and soft, with a bite from the candied ginger bits on the top. Whether you're looking for a dessert for a potluck this Thanksgiving or are simply trying to get ahead for Christmas, this is an awesome back-pocket recipe to go for!

I have always loved the scents of holiday spices. Growing up, as soon as the apples were picked in the orchard for pies, we knew it was mulled cider season. I would stand at the crockpot while my mom would dump in the fresh pressed cider and the milk-carton looking container of mulling spices, and only after being admonished for putting my face in the food did I retreat to the couch and wait for it to be ready. The cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves would coat my throat and make even the most blustery fall day a non-issue.

Ironically, I've never been one to go out of my way for spice in cookies. Cider, cake, muffins - all absolutely passable vehicles for the warming spices of the season. But my experience with spice cookies - and especially gingerbread - was the hard, verging on stale storebought ones coated in sanding sugar that we used to be served with school Christmas lunch. I don't care what kind of cookie it is, I do not like it when it's hard and crunchy (sorry biscotti). That said, my coworkers, friends (and now co-workers of N) like spice cookies in any form, so come holiday time my house is thoroughly perfumed with butter-bloomed cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, amongst other things.

These cookies were made as a "thank you" for one of N's coworkers who has always supported him and allowed him to switch shifts for whatever reason. The cookies themselves are not fancy in any way - looking at them, there's no icing, no sprinkles, nothing but a few bits of candied ginger poking through the thin, shiny crust. However, their simple looks give way to a perfect balance of texture and flavour. The egg whites allow the cookies to be light with a hint of chew and a shiny surface, while the judicious use of spices add a warm hum to every bite without smacking you over the head with heat. The cardamom is, and will always be, my favourite spice of the lot when it comes to spice baking, and since I get little bits at a time from a high-turnover bulk store you can certainly smell it when it's in play! The perfect two bite size makes these cookies great for a snack or bake sale table and I know I have requests to make them again for the staff party. Let the warmth of the fall season begin!

Monday, October 7, 2019

A New Treat for Fall with @CacaoTeaCo

With the cold weather coming in fast and furious, I am turning my attentions (grudgingly) from the garden fresh produce (beets and carrots excepted) into the warming flavours of soups, spices and tea. Luckily, I was approached by a fellow tea lover who had a rather ingenious idea when it came to both the world of brewed beverages as well as reducing environmental waste - "tea" made from the discarded husks of cacao beans. Jessica, one of the two creators of the Northwestern startup, spoke with me on the phone and let me know some of the tea's benefits - not only does it have the flavour and aroma of cacao, but it is free of sugar, gluten, dairy and caffeine, getting it's energy boosting properties from theobromine. Side note - theobromine is awesome for us humans (it lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart disease, boosts brain function and even helps strengthen tooth enamel [source]), but it is toxic to our furry canine friends - I don't have dogs but the friend I shared some of the tea with did and she kept it tightly sealed and on a high shelf!

When I made my first cup of Cacao Tea, I didn't know what to expect! The smell of the husks from the bag is deeply cocoa-noted and slightly fruity-floral. While the instructions suggest 6-8 minutes of steeping, I poured the water into the tea and had a shower so I'm estimating the steep time for me was more like 20 minutes. With the longer steep (and cooling off period) I was able to taste the tea right away, and I was pleasantly surprised - the first sip tasted just like a 90% dark chocolate bar (which I love) but in an easy drinking "tea" texture. It was not at all like hot chocolate made with milk, which made it perfect for a mid afternoon treat that was indulgent but not "heavy". 

Next, I wanted to see how well I could marry the decadence of Cacao Tea with my usual morning brew - coffee! What can I say, this teacher / student's brain is 3/4 caffeine. I stuffed a little tea ball with a spoonful of the Cacao Tea and steeped it in the freshly brewed coffee while it cooled to drinkable temperature (about 10 minutes). I don't put milk or sugar in my coffee, but the Cacao Tea rounded out the flavours of the coffee and removed any and all acidity while adding a subtle hint of chocolate. While it may not be the conventional way to indulge in this tea, I am definitely adding it to my roster of things to enjoy!

I originally had plans to use some of my stash to make some goodies, but I really can't imagine parting with something so tasty that I can actually enjoy! As someone with multiple food allergies and a fat intolerance, my days of chowing down on a chocolate bar are long gone. This tea satisfies my dark chocolate love while leaving me energized and not feeling weighed down. I know I'll be savouring this as much as I can this winter, and since they have an easy online ordering system on their website getting more is as easy as a few clicks!

Thank you so much Jessica and the team at Cacao Tea Co. for this opportunity, I always appreciate having the chance to test and review new and innovative products, especially when they come from small businesses. For my readers, do check them out and give them a try - your inner chocoholic will thank you!

Cacao Tea Co. website
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cacaoteaco/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ca/cacaoteaco/

Monday, September 23, 2019

Cherry Pinwheel Cookies

These Cherry Pinwheel Cookies are given a hint of tang from cream cheese and lemon juice while super concentrated cherry flavour brings a hit of fruit to the pink swirl! It will be a hit in any lunchbox or snack table!

Sigh - where did the Summer go? It seems so crazy that September is almost over, we're almost a whole month into school and the Thanksgiving sales are on. That said, since school is back in session (even for me!), a sweet pick me up in the lunchbox is always appreciated. I came across the original recipe for these cookies on Simply Recipes and fell in love with their adaptability and relative simplicity.

Being me (and wanting to use up the random stuff in my pantry and fridge!) I tweaked the recipe to my tastes. I love a hint of tang in my sweets, and by adding lemon juice to the cherry stripe and using cream cheese for some of the butter I got the slight cheesecakey tartness I looked for. The cream cheese also helped these cookies keep their shape in the oven - no crazy spread like I always have with all butter cookies. To get a slight crisp on the outside, I used egg whites in the dough as well. Finally, I was tired of eyeing the bag of white whole wheat flour in my pantry (which I was using for brownies for my sister) and tossed it in for the all purpose.

The one thing I will say about these cookies is that they do take time - at minimum 24 hours - so you need to plan ahead. However, they also freeze beautifully and I can't wait to make a few more batches for Christmas giving! I can't imagine a prettier platter than one with a variety of colourful swirls... I'm thinking chocolate and orange perhaps, or a vanilla-mint, maybe even a coconut and rum? The possibilities are endless!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Amaranth and Honey Bread #BreadBakers

Amaranth and Honey Bread is sweet with a hint of orange zest with a delicate texture from cooked amaranth. Spread with marmalade its a great addition to the weekend morning lineup!

I adore my pantry of many strange and wonderful grains and flours. While most of them I found either at the Bulk Barn or local Asian grocery, I also saved up for when Mom and I would go to the St. Lawrence Market in the summer to buy one of my favourite specialty flours: amaranth. In retrospect, it's actually funny for me to wax poetic about this grain, as Nightwish (one of my new favourite Spotify finds) has a song called Amaranth that N loved long before I knew they existed. It's become somewhat of an anthem for us, and I couldn't think of a better celebratory bread to bake up for Bread With Seeds this month!

While amaranth is looked on as a grain by most people, like quinoa it's actually a seed that can be treated as a grain (i.e. boiled, puffed, or ground). As I've been staying gluten free personally due to skin and digestive issues, I've been enjoying amaranth as cereal and pressed with rice into rice cake / crackers all summer as it has a lightly nutty, buttery taste. When I stumbled across a recipe pairing the flavourful seed with honey on Melangery, I couldn't wait to try it out as Mom (the resident breadaholic) loves that flavour combination as well.

I did make a few changes to the loaf as I went along, and was pleased overall with the results. I soaked the grains rather than boiled them since I had time to spare and didn't want mushy grains in my bread. Butter became a mixture of sesame oil (for flavour) and canola oil for balance, and I used soy milk due to it's beneficial effect on the yeast activity. The rising took longer than a standard loaf as it is a heavy dough, but the flavour was worth every minute spent hovering over the bowl. Lastly, I upped the amount of honey because we love it's flavour and browning capacity.

The loaf came out of the oven crusty and smelling amazing from all the various seeds toasting. Visually, it's a stunning loaf with the sun-like design sliced into the top, and after it cooled (an agonizing wait!) each slice was dense but moist and perfect for smearing honey or jam on in the morning. It's a shame that amaranth flour is still a bit on the pricey side or I'd be making this every week!


#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 1, 2019

Garlicky Spaghetti Sauce

Homemade spaghetti sauce is really easy to make, and while you won't get a lot from a garden's worth of tomatoes the flavour of each drop is well worth the labour!

Well, the tomatoes have finally come in - well, most of them anyway. I actually really lucked out this year and had almost all my garden produce ripen on cue - I suddenly had the makings of a classic spaghetti sauce on my hands! With my copy of The Canning Kitchen by Amy Bronee on hand, I gathered up all the ingredients I needed from the garden and pantry and set to work! Five hours after making the first slice into a tomato, I was rewarded with this jar - four cups - of deeply flavourful, thick and rich tomato sauce. Does it seem like a bit of a rip off (when I started with 6 lbs of tomatoes)? Kind of, but at the same time I know that every last speck of effort that went into it - from the planting of the seedlings for the tomatoes, herbs, onions and garlic to the chopping and measuring to the final can - will be appreciated and can be tasted. This is no canned or jarred sauce, although they have their place. Nope, this jar is being saved for a spaghetti and meatball dinner or a homemade lasagna shared with loved ones. I owe the garden that much at least!

Also, don't freak out at the amount of garlic in this recipe. Yes, there are 6 cloves in that one jar. But they cook for so long at such a low temperature that they mellow and add a nuanced flavour to the recipe, without the sharp bite of the bulb. Egyptian onions are best equated to a cross between shallots and green onions, and you can certainly use shallots or even a white onion in this recipe instead. I left the tomato seeds in (we aren't picky) but you can mill your sauce if that's a no-go for you! No pressure canner? Freeze it! The options are endless, truly.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Number One Giant Cashew Cookie

Because everyone deserves to be told they're #1 in somebody's eyes! This giant cookie is made with cashew butter and dotted with mini chocolate chips. Using egg yolks keeps the cookie rich and chewy too - and did I mention its flourless?

I think that the "little guy" doesn't always get the credit and celebration he deserves. Yes, I agree that doctors, firefighters, police officers and the military have difficult jobs, and they deserve respect. However, the supporting staff behind the scenes keep towns and businesses running. I am not going to use this post to tout the lack of recognition that teachers get. Rather, I made this cookie to celebrate a milestone for N - 10 years as a security guard.

Now some people will roll their eyes at this. But the work is hard, boring and thankless - not to mention the strange and ever changing shifts they are subjected to. N has more tenure than the other 3 guards at his site combined, and seeing as he started as a fresh faced 21 year old that's saying something! While his work "gave" him a pin (left on top of a filing cabinet with papers for days before he went in for something unrelated), I wanted to celebrate with him and acknowledge his work... and what better way to say "hooray" than with a big, personalized cookie? To be fair, I also made him and I cake...because cake. The cookie is huge, richly flavoured and perfect to share should you be so inclined, or spread over many snack times with a glass of milk or coffee. It also has blissfully few ingredients and is vegan and gluten free (depending on the chocolate you use). The icing on the top makes the cookie a "special occasion" treat, but if I was making this for myself or kids to share after school I honestly wouldn't bother. 

Also, feel free to use any nut butter you desire - I had the dregs of a jar of cashew butter to use up, but the original used peanut butter and I am eyeing my jar of almond butter to try as well. Just make sure it's a "no-stir" variety to eliminate oil oozing out and making dry, ugly cookies. Not a fan of chocolate? Add sprinkles, nuts, raisins...whatever! It's your cookie!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Mashed Potato Quick Bread

The crumb of this Potato Quick Bread is so soft and moist you'd expect it to contain a pound of butter - but it has no added fat and it's vegan! Not to mention it can be on the table in under an hour.

There is honestly not one scrap of my being that doesn't miss biting into good, warm, homemade bread. While my days of eating loaves, rolls and cinnamon buns are over (thank you, autoimmune), I still enjoy making bread for my friends and family, and with the kids at work! When it comes to breadmaking in Home Economics class, speed and ease are key, as is thriftiness - hence the creation of this crackly-crusted, moist loaf. After my classes made chocolate potato truffles for what seems like the millionth time (they all love them, and I can't believe I haven't posted the recipe after 6 years of making them!) I found myself with a rather large amount of potatoes left over. Well, not one to waste food (or my school's money), I Googled and came up with a recipe for a quick, one bowl bread using mashed potatoes and blissfully few other ingredients. Mixing the dough was absolutely no work for me, and when I set my (older) kids free to follow their recipe while I was hands off they made equally excellent results that they were quite proud of! It is, I dare say, even easier than Irish Soda Bread, and tastier to boot!

This loaf, when warm from the oven, tastes exactly like the biscuits from Red Lobster. Even when there is no garlic, cheese, butter or herbs in sight, it is unmistakably similar in both flavour and texture. Even my sister had to agree, and if it passes her picky taste test I know it's got to be good!

If you are trying to get your kids (or yourself) into baking, I strongly recommend this loaf as a jumping-off point. Who knows, you may catch the bug like me! Also, for the simplest of simple recipes, use a digital scale. Consistent results every time and one less thing to wash!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Spiced Superfruit Jam - Toast Topper #85

This Spiced Superfruit Jam is a decadent mix of blackberries, raspberries, cherries and blueberries softly spiced with a hint of cinnamon and cloves. With less sugar than standard jams, its a Toast Topper you can feel great about enjoying!

It feels good to be back in the canning kitchen again! I took a bit of a break last Summer (life and school got in the way) and now that the new year is almost upon us I'll be wrapping up my slew of canned goodies (that you can see on IG) as well. This year was a shockingly good one for Ontario produce, and I'd be a fool not to preserve it for a long winter's worth of pancakes, waffles and toast!

Like with most things, I prefer my jams not to be cloyingly sweet and want the fruity taste to come through full force. I have found two low-sugar pectins (the stuff that makes jam gel, if you don't make jam usually) that I love and buy them en masse when they're on sale. The first (and cheapest outright) is Bernardin (which may only be available in Canada, I can't find it on Amazon, but I have used Ball as well), which churns out about 6 cups of jam per packet. The second is Pomona's, which allows the batch size of various jams to be customized based on the amount of fruit you have. I've made as little as one jar of jam with it and as much as 12!

I also really enjoy playing with the flavours of my jams. Even though the fruit is always first and foremost, adding complementary flavours is a great way to add interest and an aspect not available from storebought preserves. I pulled out my copy of The Flavor Bible to help me this year, resulting in the addition of cinnamon and cloves to accent the tart-sweet berry notes. A spoonful of this jam tastes like a less tannic mulled wine, and I have it on good authority that a dab of it on sharp Cheddar topping a cracker is pretty darn good!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Mediterranean Salad for One

Dinner tonight is this incredible Mediterranean Salad for one, packed with all the garden's produce (including dried oregano from last year, Egyptian onions and garlic scapes from N) and dressed simply with Alaea salt, black pepper and fresh lemon juice. Light yet filling for those Summer nights!

As much as I love living in Canada, one of the things I don't love is that our growing season starts late and ends early. Summer break being what it is (July / August), we don't really see much of the garden bringing forth their glory until at least halfway through, if not later. That said, late is better than never, and since the cukes and tomatoes arrived at the same time this year I figured what better way to enjoy them than in a simple, chunky salad?

I love Mediterranean flavours, and this salad is not lacking in them! In addition to the garden cucumbers and tomatoes, I tossed in dried oregano and dill (from last year), Egyptian onion bulbs (from the Sputnik-like plant out back) and garlic scapes from my fiance's garden that I roasted using this recipe (cutting the time to 15 minutes). For protein, I tossed in a handful of chickpeas (my favourite bean) and sprinkled on lemon juice, coarse pepper and a Hawaiian Alaea salt. If you had told me 15 years ago that I would be eating salads for dinner (and enjoying them!) I'd have called you crazy. But now, I don't want summer to ever end!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Major Grey's Chutney - Toast Topper #84

Major Grey's Chutney is full of spice with a delicate tropical undercurrent thanks to mango!

Major Grey's Chutney

Chutney is definitely a go-to condiment in my household. Mom puts any incarnation of it in stir fries, with grilled meat and even steamed veggies and rice! I, on the other hand, enjoy it - just not to the extreme. In any case, we always have a jar or two on hand, and making up a batch is a great way to use up spices and various fruit and veggies laying about.

We had bought some mangoes on sale with the aim of making fruit trays for company, however (as always seems to happen) we overbought. Who could tell how many cubes one mango yielded? Anyways, I was given the remaining, almost-overripe mango to use in "whatever", and since I didn't have any pectin on hand, I knew jam was out. However, a quick perusal of the internet led me to Saveur, who had a recipe for one of the most famous chutneys out there - Major Grey's! I have no idea what the background of this condiment is other than it being an English - Indian hybrid served with aged cheese, but since it was full of ingredients we knew and liked I decided to give it a whirl.

One thing about making this - and any - chutney is that it is one of the most fragrant recipes you'll ever make. The heat blooms the spices, perfuming the kitchen for hours even after it's long been bottled. The vinegar is the first thing to make your eyes water, but the sweet, spicy and woodsy aromas soon rush in. The mango adds a subtle floral sweetness, but in the end it doesn't taste distinctly like the fruit - it is part of a greater whole. At any rate, this went exceptionally well in Mom's usual applications, as well as dolloped on crispbread over cream cheese and with Black Bread and old Cheddar. Next time mangoes go on sale, I may buy some extra just for this!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Black Bread

Dark and dense black bread is flavoured with caraway and rye, with a hint of sweetness from molasses and grated carrots. Smeared with cultured butter, it's a perfect lunch side.

One of the things I love about mid August is that all the market produce is in full swing. While it may have been the case for ages south of the border, where we are in Toronto it's only about this time when the bulk of the garden and farms start producing en masse. As always, I planted an array of heirloom root veggies (carrots and beets this year) and the first round is ready for pulling, much to this veggie-head's content! Of course, just because we have some produce in the backyard doesn't mean we don't go a wee bit overboard at the farmers' market too - especially if we're inspired by either the veggies or the prepared foods on display!

This bread came about as a combination of both of those inspirations - both of the markets Mom and I (and now N) attend in the summer have artisan bakeries as well as the normal produce stands, and I always get Mom to look and see what kinds of loaves tickle her fancy. She'll buy one, of course - instant gratification and supporting local vendors is the name of the game - but the second choice is mine to recreate. This time she spotted a super-dark, dense rye bread on display, topped with seeds, and after scouting around the good old blogging world for a bit I settled on a recipe that would not only recreate the loaf but use some of the carrots we bought too! Not only does the dense dough stay moist and tender due to the molasses, but shredded carrot subtly infuses it's natural sweetness and colour as it bakes. The colour comes from a combination of espresso powder, cocoa powder and molasses, while the rye and whole wheat add not only a ton of flavour but nutrition too.

While I didn't get to enjoy this loaf, I do have it on good authority that it is well worth the (albeit minimal) work involved. Mom preferred to enjoy it "ploughman's style" with butter, cheese and crudites, although she also admitted it made a mean corned beef sandwich too. Either way, it was a great addition to a lighter summer lunch!