Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Mesquite Chocolate Chunk Cookies

These chocolate chip cookies are thin, chewy and given a huge flavour boost from mesquite flour. A small amount goes a long way to making every bite extraordinary!
 

Mesquite is a flavour and aroma that usually brings into mind memories of barbecue or slow, smokey camp outs. It's one of my favourite flavours of liquid smoke, and in fact was one of N and my first memories as a couple (he ordered a sandwich with mesquite BBQ sauce on our first date). So with our anniversary rolling around in mid November, I decided to honour (or poke fun at) the occasion and dug into my stash of mesquite flour to make these cookies.

While mesquite is almost always associated with savoury foods, it actually pairs really well with rich, sweet and "dark" flavours like brown sugar and bittersweet chocolate too! I enhanced the flavour of the mesquite by adding both whole wheat flour and flaxseeds, adding a lovely nuttiness to the overall cookie. That said, because of all the "thirsty" ingredients, it is imperative that these cookies rest in the fridge at least an hour to hydrate, otherwise they will have a gritty texture. The chunks of dark chocolate become ever so slightly oozy when they bake, even when cool, and add just the sublest hint of sweet and bitter to the dough. 

These cookies are definitely a great addition to the cookie platter at the holidays, if an unusual one. You can make them big or small, adjusting the bake time as necessary, and while they don't need adornment, there is nothing stopping you from throwing on a dash of sprinkles on top before baking for a little festive flair!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Adding CBD to Your Routine? These Foods Can Help Boost the Benefit


When it comes to taking cannabidiol products with your daily routine, most people would recommend doing so with foods that are capable of increasing the overall bioavailability of the product. Bioavailability is the body’s ability to properly absorb and experience effects of certain types of drugs - it is the reason why some medications are recommended to be taken with food, and why some others tend to cause nausea and a stomach ache when taken alone. 

In the case of CBD, there are plenty of ways to help boost the overall bioavailability alongside the product. Considering the many touted health benefits, it is no wonder why weed edibles and many other products are so popular. Here are just some foods that can help boost the benefit.

The perfect spices
First and foremost, for those who want to make the full use of cannabidiol, it would be a good idea to make use of specific types of spice that can be sprinkled on your food - in some cases, it might even be used on tea. Water soluble cannabidiol products can be mixed with turmeric tea, for example.

In the case of spices on food, the aforementioned turmeric, as well as the use of rosemary and black pepper can make it much easier to absorb the effects of CBD products. When you consider how common it is for food products to have the above spices, it is quite easy to incorporate and reinforce the effects of CBD.

The impact of emulsified fats 
When it comes to general foods that can help provide a reinforced effect for CBD products, emulsified fats would be one of the ideal foods to utilize. For example, chocolate is an excellent choice for those who want a stronger effect and more bioavailability, as well as mayonnaise.

Going nuts for CBD
If you want an even stronger effect when you enjoy chocolates, you can go for chocolates with nuts such as almonds and the like, as nuts are known to help boost the overall effects of cannabidiol products. Sweet treats generally taste even better when paired with tea, so one of the best ways to make use of a CBD edible, oil, or any other similar product, would be to take turmeric tea, and chocolate with nuts.

The healthy fats found in fish
Nuts are known to have healthy fats, which is why many other products with healthy fats are effective in bringing out the full potential of CBD. Those who are fond of fish will have plenty to enjoy when making use of CBD products, as it is undoubtedly a meal that is not only healthy, but can also improve the many touted health benefits of cannabidiol.

When it comes to food and CBD, the two go together extremely well. There are so many examples of excellent food products that can increase the bioavailability of CBD products that it is quite easy to make the most out of the situation.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Cabernet-Salted Vanilla Caramels

These rich, buttery caramels are kissed with Cabernet infused sea salt for a grown up twist.


I have many fond memories associated with caramels. My grandfather was a die-hard Werther's addict, and many an afternoon he would come to pick me up from school and sneak me a piece before we would get home. As the years went on, these caramels became the everlasting memory I have of him. 

Now, I don't know what grandpa would have thought about these homemade caramels - they are soft, not crunchy, and are definitely a different flavour experience than those gold-wrapped morsels - but nevertheless I really enjoy this confection. I seem to always make some form of my wine-infused salt each year (Cabernet is what is usually consumed, hence what usually provides the dregs for me) and I wondered what effect it would have on a double-vanilla, buttery caramel base. I found a recipe for a small batch on Dessert for Two and tried it out once... only to lose all the caramels to company (and a few to a caramel apple pie) before I took a photo. So the next time I doubled the batch and swapped out the corn syrup for honey and added a vanilla bean in addition to the wine-y salt. Cause you know... excess.

I think I hit the jackpot! The floral honey and vanilla pod really added a complexity to the sweet caramel, while the salt added a tiny bit of bitter tannin as well. The batch also doubled beautifully, which is generally rare with candy. The only downside was wrapping every... little... piece. If you make a full pan, definitely enlist some free (or candy-paid) labour to help - children would easily volunteer I think! Keeping the candy cool while you wrap it really helps, I suggest a stone board or even a cookie sheet over ice packs to keep it firm. After they're wrapped, a cool place is best for storage (I used the fridge and it worked fine). At least, until you eat them!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

PCB Jam - Toast Topper #91

When Ontario produce is abundant (and relatively cheap!) It's jam making time! This batch is full of peaches, cherries and blackberries, promising Summer in every bite.


Wow - this is what happens when life shoves things to the back burner - or in this case, the drafts folder! Luckily, this jam is so good that I make it almost yearly, so please forgive the shoddy photo but enjoy this Toast Topper!

I make no secret of the fact that I love freezing my produce when it's at it's peak in the Summer, or if I can't get out to the farmer's market (like - ahem - this year), purchasing my berries and stone fruit conveniently IQF. For me, you can't beat the flavour in the middle of the Winter, since here you're lucky to find anything but mealy apples that are $3 a pound by the time November rolls around! That said, I am also completely guilty of buying too much fruit when it's on sale and thus, overburdening the freezer (especially when it's competing with cookie dough, turkeys, stock and pies). When I start getting attacked by bags of it when I open the door, I know it's time to break out the large pot, the pectin and the canner and get preserving.

This jam is perfect in it's simplicity, not needing spices or extracts to make the flavours pop. Rather, the sweetness of the peaches and cherries is balanced by the blackberries, which also add a tiny bit of texture (because I'm lazy and don't strain seeds). This jam also comes together lightning-fast, meaning that you need to make sure your waterbath canner is almost boiling and your jars are sanitized before you start the process. If canning isn't your thing (and I'll be honest, I haven't done any this year), fear not - you can keep a jar unopened in the fridge for a month or so or freeze it for up to six (use a plastic container though, broken glass is no fun!).

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Norwegian Butter Cookies

You can't beat a great butter cookie - and these Norwegian Butter Cookies are some of the best! Using a high-fat European style butter is crucial here since you taste it in every bite, and the tiniest bit of almond extract rounds out the whole thing. Beware, they are addictive!


It's generally held in my family that the best butter cookies belong to my mom - no ifs, ands, or buts, if we buy butter for baking between November 1st and January 1st, its almost exclusively earmarked for shortbreads. However, the type of butter we buy for those perfect cookies is (almost hilariously) specific, and pedestrian. I am not kidding - the fanciest we get for those cookies is the ubiquitous grocery store staple butter, if not the "no name" discount brand. We have tried "fancier" or more expensive brands, but none of them work quite right.

That said, I am a sucker for gourmet ingredients every once in a while, and when I was at the farmer's market last year (yes, pre-COVID) I splurged on a $6, 8-oz brick of high fat, European style butter. I originally planned to make croissants with it, but life and school and work got in the way and I wound up tossing it into the freezer and admittedly forgetting about it. Only when our fridge freezer's door guiderails broke and we had to de-bulk the baskets to try and lighten the load did I "rediscover" it - still in it's own little zip-top bag and foil wrapping. Since the holidays are coming nigh (though I think I am dangerously overloaded with cookie dough at the moment) I decided to try out another recipe from my mom's Reader's Digest Recipes from Around the World (the one this lovely loaf and these cookies came from) for Norwegian Butter Cookies.

Now, what makes these Norwegian, I cannot tell you. Is it the almond extract? No clue. What I can assure you is that there are absolutely no trolls or maelstorms in these tender, decadently rich yet simple cookies! You absolutely taste the butter in every bite, so unfortunately skimping on the quality / butterfat will not do you any favours here, and because they are so spartan in their ingredient lists it really is key to make sure every single ingredient is the best it can be. It sounds ironic to be harping on quality ingredients when there is also shortening in the ingredients list, but I believe that it's inclusion (and I used a good quality, non-hydrogenated brand) helps the cookies from becoming too flat or greasy. The cookies I made are not lily-white either, as the vanilla I used is naturally dark and I opted for unbleached flour, but when it comes to taste who cares?

I will have far more cookies coming to the blog in the next few weeks, but suffice it to say these are some of this year's favourites! 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Apple Onion Rosemary Jam - Toast Topper #90

Apple Onion Rosemary Jam is sweet, sour, savoury and an excellent condiment alongside cheese and crackers or topping roast beef. No pectin and very little sugar needed - it all comes from the produce!
 
 
Are you a condiment person? I, for one, was always a huge fan of spicy, tangy accompaniments to a traditional Sunday roast dinner, and if I was at a party with a platter of cheese and relishes - heaven! My mom is also a fan of sweet-sour-savoury condiments, especially things like chutney. So, while our family gatherings this year have been quite scaled back, it just means that I don't have to share everything I make! (Just kidding, I love to share).

This jam was inspired by a cheese board spread I saw in the local wine store's magazine, where they had a little bowl of onion jam alongside oozy Brie and sharp Cheddar, toast points and crackers. I still had a bounty of apples hanging out in the fridge and I always have onions in the pantry, so I gave it a go with a recipe I found on Just a Pinch. I added a pinch of rosemary that I had dried from this summer's herb garden, which really lent a savoury note to the mixture and played off the sweet apples and brown sugar well, in addition to the garlic and black pepper. 
 
It is worth noting this is a small batch recipe - it only makes two cups or so - but because there is no pectin to mess around with it is fairly scale-able. It is also a weapon to have in the fridge or freezer all year round, since while it's great on roast beef it would also play nicely with a hearty beef burger or even a grilled cheese sandwich. Whatever you feel needs a pop of flavour, this will suffice!

 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Beetroot and Poppyseed Sourdough

This Beetroot and Poppyseed Sourdough is cooked in a Dutch oven for an unbelievably crisp crust, and the long fermentation makes for the most amazing flavour and texture. You will never have a loaf quite like it!
 

The only (and I repeat: the only) good things about the cold weather coming around here are these: my root vegetables are finally ready to harvest, and I can turn on the oven and not get whined at for heating up the house. I proudly grow a variety of beets and carrots in my little plot every year, and take great pleasure incorporating them into things like chutney, soups, cake, pickles and bread. 
 
Now, beet bread is nothing new to me. I have made beet-enhanced bread on this blog before, and it is always a hit given it's natural sweet earthiness. That said, I never made one of the sourdough or Dutch oven baked variety! I came across this gorgeous idea while scrolling through my feed reader shortly before World Bread Day, and I immediately bookmarked it. Not only did it use up one of my large beets, but I didn't have to pre-roast and puree the vegetable - a simple grate is all that was needed. As a result, the bread baking process draws out the sweet liquid in the shreds, infusing every bite of the crumb and making it impossibly tender. A couple spoons of poppy seeds add crunch while the hot Dutch oven made the crust crisp and relatively thick (read: chewy!).
 
One of the reasons this bread was such a win for our family is that it was a sourdough recipe. This means that the bread takes a while to make, but it is almost completely hands off and while you sleep at night, making for fresh bread in the morning! The slight tang from the fermentation balances the nuttiness of the seeds and the sweetness of the beets as well, so every bite is sheer perfection (trust me: my mom ate a portion of this loaf without even butter). If you have a sourdough starter languishing after the bread boom of the summer, break it out and give it a few feeds before using it so it's lovely and energetic - the dough is rather heavy so the yeast needs to do a lot of work!

Friday, November 13, 2020

Cran-Apple Butter - Toast Topper #89

Cran-Apple Butter is a sweet-tart spread that is perfect in its simplicity - nothing more than diced apples, fresh cranberries, apple juice, honey and brown sugar with a big pinch of time!

 
I'm going to make a confession here - I had to look up when American Thanksgiving was. Even though I live in Canada, and we absolutely have Black Friday and all the network feeds from the States, we aren't that crazy about the holiday (or sales) in my household. That said, I now know that it is November 26, which means that if you are still wondering what to cook up as a twist on this anything-but-normal holiday you have time to try this lovely Toast Topper on for size! 

Since I still had apples from our orchard adventure sitting in the fridge, I had to start thinking of ways to use them before they turned into vinegar (the basement was starting to smell like a brewery due to the other bags in the not-so cold cellar). Along with a compote, an apple-onion jam, a batch of this lovely conserve and a classic apple butter, I tried a twist on the cranberry butter I saw on The View from Great Island, adding one to add even more pectin and a little more of a mediating smoothness to the mixture. Like most fruit butters, this one is really easy to do, but it is also very time consuming. You can't really wander off while it cooks in the second half, since you need to stir it every so often, but it is great if you can pop a movie or something on for the afternoon and just bask in the aromas of the holiday. 

The resulting puree is a perfect blend of tart and sweet, with a gorgeous crimson colour and just a hint of vanilla. I canned one jar to gift at Christmas, but the other I stuck in the fridge for toast. Turns out it is also a perfect addition to sandwiches with sharp cheese and roast chicken, as well as adding to a balsamic vinaigrette base for a pop of flavour (we also added fennel and black pepper). It definitely gets better overnight, which is great for planning ahead!

Here is hoping everyone can bring a taste of the holidays to their table this year. Be safe and have fun!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Chickpea and Quinoa Tabbouleh

This salad is fresh, light and healthy with a tangy lemon garlic dressing infusing chickpeas, quinoa and a host of vegetables. Homegrown lemon balm adds interest to the standard parsley as well!
 

I know, I know... it's the second week of November - what right do I have posting a lovely salad like this? Well, I have succeeded this year in maintaining a tiny kitchen herb garden (for how long, I don't know) and with the unseasonably warm weather in the later half of our growing season we still have plenty of just-picked tomatoes on the counter! I wanted to use up as much as I could with my older Home Ec class, and when I came across a partial bag of quinoa in the freezer I was inspired to make a version of one of my favourite salads from college: tabbouleh. 

Normally, you'll find a rather bare-bones ingredient list in tabbouleh - parsley, mint, bulgur and maybe some lemon and olive oil. This recipe takes the idea and runs with it, swapping in the nutrient dense (and gluten free) quinoa for the bulgur and adding in extra veggies - including deliciously nutty chickpeas and home grown lemon balm. A few twists on the traditional dressing pop up the flavour even more! While this was made and enjoyed the same day by my students and colleagues, the leftovers were even better - my mom began raiding the leftovers in the fridge as a snack and said the mixture just kept getting better with time. 

Of course, if quinoa isn't your thing, the standard bulgur is still perfectly fine here. You can also use couscous, amaranth, millet, rice or farro for different flavours and textures - just make sure they're all cooked before adding them! The possibilities are endless, but if you don't have lemon balm I do suggest adding some lemon zest to the mix for that bright citrus flavour. You wont regret it!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Sweet Potato and Apple Braid #BreadBakers

 Now this is Fall on a plate! A rich, slightly sweet whole grain yeast dough (fortified with @nakednutrition Naked Rice protein powder) is braided over creamy sweet potato apple butter custard and diced local Honeycrisps tossed with raw sugar. Enjoyed for breakfast or with ice cream as dessert, its a decadent twist on a classic pie.

This year has been weird on many levels, but for me the strangest part so far is that the holidays have been a lot easier for me to deal with. I am a total introvert, and the traveling and packing food (cause aren't allergies fun?) and worrying about getting home in the dark on roads in various states cause the joy to be sucked out of the time a little bit. However, I did always pride myself on coming to every holiday event (Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter) with dessert. My dad loves pumpkin pie, for instance - especially this pumpkin apple butter concoction - and since N and I had gone apple picking I had a batch of apple butter hanging out in the fridge in preparation for our holiday.
 
Obviously, 2020 had other plans for us, but N had mentioned a desire for sweet potato pie a few months ago and I had to indulge him! The first one was pretty plain-Jane and stuck to the script I found on One Dish Kitchen with the exceptions of using a pastry (not graham cracker) crust, slow-roasting the sweet potato to draw out the caramel notes and using evaporated 2% milk for the dairy. Since that was a hit (to say the least - it competed and tied with my mom's apple pie) I decided to make another one with a few of my own tricks. I amped up the sweetness with my choice of sweet potato (a purple-skinned, white flesh one, which is candy-sweet with slow roasting) and added in a touch of tang with my homemade apple butter. Naked Collagen added a boost of protein and kept the filling lusciously smooth even with the low-fat dairy and since it's tasteless the maple and spices were allowed to shine.

I used the same formula the next weekend to make a baked custard (having leftovers of pretty much everything on hand) and was wondering what to do with it. At least, I wondered until I was scrolling through Facebook where my friend had shared a caramel-apple braided loaf. I decided I'd take that idea and use what I had - my baked custard and diced apples left over from making mini apple pies for my sister's rats (yes, I spoil them, but they are ADORABLE). The bread dough (of course) became whole wheat and laced with Naked Rice protein (which helped the overall conditioning of the dough and rise imho) and flaxseed, making it a more flavourful and healthy wrapping than the sweet white bread that is traditional. I had to balance out the rich filling somehow! 

Braiding the loaf over the filling is really easy and looks more difficult and impressive than it is. Once it bakes, the plaits separate just slightly allowing the steam to escape and preventing a soggy crust, while adding just a touch of crisp and chew. I had no difficulty slicing the loaf in half to store (it took up my whole cookie sheet) and the baked loaf froze and thawed well without any weeping of the filling. I may try this again for the winter holidays!

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Welcome to Bread Bakers! This month, our theme is Stuffed Baked Breads and our host is Renu of Cook with Renu. #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 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.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Cranberry Honey Mustard

Looking for something a little different for the holiday condiments? Try this zesty, sweet Cranberry Honey Mustard on for size! Fresh cranberries are cooked down with vinegar, apple juice, honey and mustard seeds to make a richly flavoured spread or topping. Try it on leftover turkey or pork sandwiches or for making a vinaigrette for roasted veggies!

Since we Canadians had Thanksgiving a few weeks ago, cranberries were on deep discount all over the place! I bought a few bags on a whim, not entirely sure what I was going to do with them, but after almost being attacked by a frozen bag of turkey leftovers and remembering the days of sandwiches piled high with cranberry sauce, Dijon mustard and turkey I wondered, what kind of condiment could I make to celebrate that? 
 
Well, the Google gods must have been listening to my brainwaves, because when I searched for cranberry recipes yesterday morning, what came up but a honey mustard using up fresh cranberries that was perfect for canning? A quick scan of the ingredients and I was delighted to see that I had everything already, no extra shopping trip (with the lines to heck and back included) required. The hardest part was waiting for the mustard seeds to soften! Once those two hours were up, the blending and simmering went fairly quickly, though I strongly suggest a splatter screen if your pot is not super tall - the mustard thickens fairly quickly and as we all know thick bubbles splatter!

In terms of canning this, I wouldn't suggest any jars larger than 1/2 pint as the mixture is quite thick, I used 4 oz jars and they worked perfectly! What didn't fit into a jar I scooped into a plastic tub and stuck in the fridge, since my previous experience with mustard indicates that waiting 24 hours (yes, another waiting period!) makes the condiment taste richer and more well rounded. Mom has been eyeballing it for her sandwiches at lunch and I have an idea for a dressing to use over roasted Brussels sprouts with it in pride of place too!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Vegetable, Sausage and Chicken Soup with @nakednutrition Naked Collagen

I am loving soup season! This vegetable-packed, gluten free soup gets pops of umami from turkey kielbasa and chicken thighs, a dash of sweetness from caramelized onions, butternut squash and chopped tomatoes and warmth from paprika and cumin. The broth is enriched with @nakednutrition Naked Collagen right before adding to the saute and simmering, giving it a great body and a boost of protein and calcium.

Well, I guess we have finally hit the wall and the cold has settled in for good. I have to say, I had high hopes last week when there was sun outside, but last weekend solidified Autumn for us. N and I went apple picking in the wind and grey skies, and I was glad that I had a stash of broth hanging out in the fridge as well as this rich, hearty soup that I made on Friday. 

Like most of my soup season creations, this one was more of a "clean out the freezer" conglomeration than anything! I had a glut of homemade chicken stock in the freezer from a few rotisserie birds and a half-link of turkey kielbasa, as well as some assorted veggies laying around. Inspired by the farro and butternut squash salad I made last Christmas out of Jacquelyn Dodd's book
Lush: A Season-by-Season Celebration of Craft Beer and Produce, I began with the onions, kale and squash and fleshed it out as I went, adding some potatoes from the pantry for good measure and some extra warming spices. 
 
Of course, you can't have a hearty, rich flavoured soup with a watery broth! Even though mine was a homemade, long-simmered concoction, I didn't have the chance to add the collagen rich chicken feet to the pot like I usually do. Instead, I turned to what is becoming my favourite fall supplement - Naked Nutrition's Naked Collagen Peptides. A few scoops whisked into the pot of stock enriched the body and bumped up the protein and calcium in the liquid, making the final soup hearty, stick to your ribs and packed with goodness (and flavour). No matter how cold it gets, I'm sure to have some brothy goodness on hand!
 
Do you embrace soup season? What are some of your favourites? 
 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Jerusalem Bagels #worldbreadday2020

Vegan Jerusalem Bagels are pillow-soft with a lightly chewy crust, accented by toasted sesame seeds. Sliced and frozen they are a perfect secret weapon mid week... If they don't "disappear" while still hot and fresh!
 

It is the 15th ever World Bread Day hosted by Zorra (@zorrakochtopf )! It has been a while since I last participated (university is no joke kids) but I am so glad to bring my bakes to the table again this year!

Bagels are known for being time consuming and messy to make in this house - the use of the mixer, stove and oven along with the baking sheets and cooling racks and floured counters... it's a lot when you just want some carbs in the breadbox! That said, bagels are insanely convenient for the school year lunches, breakfasts on the go, and lazy Saturday mornings. When I stumbled across "Jerusalem bagels" on Coco's Green Deli, I was intrigued - ring-shaped, topped with sesame but without the glossy and chewy exterior from boiling, could they possibly compare to my beloved Montreal bagels, or even my usual homemade ones?
 
 
Well, the short answer is yes! While different from the boiled bagels, these soft, pillowy breads are the perfect (and fast) addition to the weekday routine. The dough is soft and slightly sweet thanks to the soy milk and sugar, while whole wheat flour adds a touch of nuttiness and a boost of fibre. I also added a scoop of Naked Rice protein to the dough since N will occasionally eat them without any Toast Topper or even peanut butter (shocker, I know!) and the protein and fibre will help keep him full and energized for a few hours. The dough is also great for making dinner rolls to pair with soup or chili, but whatever you do, don't skip the seedy topping! It doesn't have to be sesame seeds - but flax, chia, poppy, heck even sunflower seeds add a boost of crunch and a warming nuttiness that really keeps them from being too sweet and rich.
 
Interestingly enough, when I made these on parchment paper, I didn't like them as much as I did when I baked them on SilPat - possibly because the silicone insulates the dough and keeps the softness throughout the whole bagel. However, both are good - you just have a bit of a thicker bottom crust on parchment.
 
Thanks again to Zorra for hosting WBD 15! 

World Bread Day, October 16, 2020 
 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Golden Braid of Bern #BreadBakers

Called a "Golden Braid of Bern" in my mom's cookbook, this buttery braided Zopf is a Swiss treat made with a blend of whole wheat, rye and all purpose flour plus a touch of honey. Spread a slice with cultured butter or top with a slice of aged cheese for a delicious side to any meal!

The fall is a weird time for me. While I love (love) the colours all our trees turn in October, apple picking, pumpkin patches and pies, I really and truly hate the cold. N rolls his eyes at me because for me, "cold" is 17C and below - what can I say? I'm definitely not doing my Scottish and Indigenous heritage proud with that logic!

That said, the cold weather also opens up the possibilities of baking for me - I don't have to worry that cranking up the oven will overheat the house and cause our A/C to cry (or die like it did this spring), and when soup and stew are on the menu a hearty loaf alongside is never a problem. The other great thing about bread baking in cooler weather is that the rising time is slowed down, which allows a better flavour to develop and the flours to hydrate more. The result is some of the best bread I bake all year!

This loaf is one I wish I had started baking a lot earlier in my career as a food blogger, but the reality was Zopf wasn't on my radar at all until N mentioned a bread that his Swiss colleague missed from home. I immediately paged through my mom's Reader's Digest Recipes from Around the World, hoping to find a recipe that matched the description I was hearing: rich, slightly sweet, braided and with a little spice of some kind. On the very last page of the "Switzerland" section, I spotted it - Zopf, haughtily titled the "Golden Braid of Bern". Perfect.

Now, being the nerd I am, I didn't just take the recipe and go. I researched actual Swiss recipes for the loaf, and found out that traditionally there is an actual "Zopf flour" that is used in the recipe. The closest approximation I could find was a mixture of white, whole wheat and rye flours, which I have noted in the recipe below. In addition, I used honey instead of white sugar to improve the flavour, and mayonnaise instead of the eggs - a trick that I initially used because I had run out of eggs, but now continue to use because it works and incorporates a bit better in my opinion (you can certainly use 2 eggs, I find the mayo tenderizes the crumb a bit more). A tiny amount of cardamom and ginger add a delicate fragrance without creating a "spice bread" and work really well with the butter permeating the whole loaf. 

When the loaf is baking, your home will be filled with the aroma of toast (it's the best way I can describe it) as the whole grains and butter heat and fuse together. The hardest part is waiting for it to cool before slicing a chunk off, but then again I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that N has torn a piece off while it was still a bit warm from the oven! The flavour is well suited to salty and tangy flavours, such as cultured butter, cream cheese, or aged Cheddar and sliced smoked ham. I've also heard that slightly stale slices make amazing French toast - that is, if there is any left to get stale!

This week the Bread Bakers group is making brown breads, perfect to serve alongside the heartier meals of the Fall and Winter seasons. Check out the blogs below and say hi!

Monday, October 12, 2020

Honeyed Cornmeal Shortbread

This Honeyed Cornmeal Shortbread is the perfect mix of chewy and crisp with a great texture from the cornmeal and caramelized honey. Try something different for your Thanksgiving dessert!
 

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to all my readers! This year, we have spread our celebrations out over most of the month, given the growing family (my stepsiblings welcomed two new littles in August!) and the various schedules we all contend with. For us, it's an excuse to just keep churning out the treats (and get rid of them without eating a whole batch). 

Mom always takes the reins on the "main" dessert during the holidays, usually an apple pie (I know, not pumpkin! None of us are that keen on pumpkin pie here, that's my dad's domain). However, while the turkey, potatoes and stuffing are cooking, it never hurts to have a snack or two! That's where these little squares of shortbread come in - they're sweet, without being too rich, and have a great corn flavour bolstered by the caramelized honey on top. The texture is a cross between traditional sandy shortbread and a chewy cookie, having a crisp exterior that still lends a chew.
 
The recipe I used is a modification of one we used at work for the holiday lunch - as always, I found I had to tweak it in order to make it "work", but hey, I'm not turning down a cookie! Drop cookies turned into pressed-out bars for more even cooking, and the honey on top was in lieu of a true glaze because I am lazy and didn't feel like messing up another bowl and whisk, but I would 100% do that again because of how wonderfully it caramelized and set. I also added a pinch of salt to the batter (the original recipe used none) and added the milk in batches to avoid a runny mixture. Baking time and temperature changed to my usual shortbread configurations, the low and slow preventing excess rise and cakeyness.

In all, these cookies satisfied our love for both cornbread and shortbread, and were a hit with the guests this weekend. What started off as an unlikely series of events wound up being something awesome that I will 100% make again, and I for one am thankful - as I am for each and every one of my readers. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving season everyone, whether you are celebrating the day today or next month!

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Boosted Hot Cocoa Mix with @nakednutrition

This Boosted Hot Cocoa Mix is rich, sweet and full of nutrition thanks to Naked Nutrition's Collagen Peptides powder and Naked Rice Protein. A jar makes a great gift for a loved one, or yourself!

I am by far a Summer person. Give me 30C weather, sun and balmy breezes all day and I am a happy camper. Once the weather gets cold, it seems like my whole body revolts and retreats into the confines of sweaters, coats (yes, even inside), blankets, hats and scarves. In addition, the cold weather often causes my rheumatoid arthritis (and associated Raynaud's phenomenon) to flare, making walking, typing, and cooking difficult (to say the least). Not only does the cold weather wreak havoc on my joints, but my whole family gets brittle nails and cracking skin once the cold sets in. Couple that with the ever-constant hand washing and sanitizer in the age of 2020 and it's a recipe for disaster! 

Thankfully I didn't take years of nutrition training for nothing - I knew that along with the medications, balms, strengthening polishes and lotions we needed to begin healing from the inside out. A few of my friends have been using various collagen "booster" products for a while now, and kept lauding their benefits. However, their products were full of things like sugar, coconut, dairy, or other additives - stuff my body can't tolerate. On top of that, the little packets they tote around are expensive and subject to somewhat iffy marketing practices. I personally prefer using products that are not only affordable, but as bare-bones as possible so that I know exactly what I'm getting. While it may sound a little extreme, I am not willing to make sacrifices when it comes to getting my health on track.
 
It's this mentality that aligns me with Naked Nutrition's supplements - they are up front about their ingredients and nutritional content, the source of their ingredients and (best of all) they are affordable, with simple packaging and fast delivery! I had the chance to try their Naked Rice protein powder earlier this year and my picky tastebuds fell in love with it, not to mention it's versatility in decadent cookies, croissants and gingersnaps. When the great folks at the company offered me the chance to try out their collagen powder, I was very interested, since I had done a bunch of research on it's benefits for arthritis and skin health and was willing to try anything to help! 

Naked Collagen impressed me right off the bat with it's nutritional profile and transparency. Each tablespoon has 9g of protein and 46% of daily calcium (if you've been reading my blog for a while you know I also have osteoporosis, so this is a biggie for me too) with only 35 calories. The collagen is sourced from grass fed beef hide and is free of dairy, soy, gluten, carbohydrates, colours, flavours or sweeteners, making it suitable for almost everyone (save vegetarians and vegans). The powder is fine and easy to scoop, making measuring easy and mess-free. I started adding a scoop to my oatmeal and was pleased with how well it mixed - leading to whisking it into soup for a little extra oomph. The collagen mixes completely with no clumping (note: for the oatmeal I mixed it with the oats first then mixed it all into the water on the stovetop, and for the soup I used a mini-whisk) and adds a slightly noticeable "body" to the liquid - not thick, per se, but richer, like a bone broth that's been simmered for hours has. 

Bolstered by that success, I decided to make hot cocoa with the Naked Collagen and Naked Rice as a little congratulatory gift to myself after finishing a term paper (they never seem to end!). Sitting down with the crossword and a big mug of it was the perfect end to my night, and I took that inspiration to create a few jars of it for holiday gifting and storing in my own pantry!
 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Coconut Butter Shortbread

These unassuming, shortbread-like cookies pack a hit of coconut flavour thanks to coconut butter (AKA creamed coconut). A drizzle of dark chocolate on top gussies them up just enough! 
 

Baking is such a zen practice for me. So many times I have caught a glimpse of our kitchen clock and thought "where did that time go?". I'm really glad that I get to not only cook and bake for a living, but that I get to teach kids how to do it too, creating things from cornbread to granola bars to pizza wontons with them and watching them hone their skills. Being school in 2020, some things have changed - nuts of all kinds are verboten, a lot of the hands-on stuff has disappeared, and my allergy lists are as long as my (orangutan, allegedly) arms. Lessons have become more refined than the "set the kids free" method I used to employ, but I still try to get them involved in any way I can.

One of the things I love doing with kids is cookies, and these ones are no exception. The process to "dough" takes about 10 minutes, and once it's made (by either the "responsible" adult or a watched student) the younger ones have a blast rolling and "squishing" the dough balls on the sheet. Ironically, for this recipe I was the one who needed to mind my allergies, as coconut and I don't mix at all! That said, this small batch is rich enough to satisfy a dessert craving without leaving you with a million cookies (not that that's a bad thing...) and with the dark chocolate drizzled on top you can feel a little fancy too. I served these to my coworkers and they were a hit!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Christmas Curry

This Christmas Curry is PACKED with vegetables and vegan protein, with a light coconut broth made with homemade curry paste infusing every single ingredient! I managed to toss in eggplant, kale, snow peas, onion, and two types of sweet potato, and topped it off with some home-grown Thai basil!
 

One of the best things about being able to go back to work is that my school is near a few international supermarkets. Even though I definitely did not grow up with the flavours of India, Japan, the Caribbean or Thailand (except for a few "world days" at school) I definitely developed a love for their cuisines, and others, when I lived in our nation's capital. Mom also had the chance to travel the world with work about that time, so when it comes time for me to cook for her I usually know where I'm headed!

Like I've mentioned a million times before, the main curry we make at home is Thai based - filled with fresh flavours from vegetables and light but filling tofu, it is something that it suitable year round. I had a few batches of curry paste hanging around my freezer from the summer (and last year too, apparently!) so I knew it was time to get back into the game and clear some freezer space. In terms of vegetables, I got a ton of inspiration wandering the shops near work. Mom loves sweet potatoes in curry, so I grabbed a couple varieties to play with, and a pack of Chinese eggplant as well which I love for their silky quality when cooked (and minimal seeds). Tofu is something we always have on hand, so it wasn't even a question, as were the addition of some of the garden's peas, chilies, kale and bell peppers. The final touch was the Thai basil I was growing on the windowsill, which I was excited to finally have a use for! 

Of course, even the best laid plans don't always work out seamlessly. I thought I had a can of coconut milk hanging out in the pantry, but apparently it had disappeared sometime in the past! However, I did have a couple bricks of creamed coconut - essentially coconut butter from pureed coconut meat - so a half block added the touch of creaminess to offset the spice of my homemade curry paste. The other half was used too - don't worry, you'll see it on the blog soon! 

While the prep work and initial cooking of this curry takes some time, the great thing is it makes a lot - so you have some for dinner and you can freeze the leftovers without issue. It's a great pinch-hitter when you just don't feel like cooking or when you have unexpected vegetarian guests for dinner. Like all these curries, add vegetables or change them up to suit your taste. Regular potatoes, jicama or cauliflower would work instead of the sweet potatoes, use green beans instead of snow peas, spinach instead of kale... you get the drift. I always say the more veggies the better! Likewise, if you don't enjoy tofu (though it soaks up the curry flavour beautifully), saute up some chunks of chicken and toss them in with the kale to warm through. The miso adds a delicate richness to the flavour and stands in for the traditional shrimp paste or fish sauce, but if you are not vegetarian feel free to add those instead!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Miniature "Turkey Burger" Meatloaf

It has been a VERY long time since I've made meatloaf - and even though I forgot breadcrumbs (see, told you it was a long time) this mini-loaf made with ground turkey breast turned out perfectly! A topping of ketchup, hoisin and a drizzle of maple syrup baked into a delicious glaze as well.
 
 
Meatloaf was never a "staple" at my house, but when my mom did make it I remembered it fondly. Nothing fancy, it was a run of the mill combo of beef, onion, egg and breadcrumbs, topped with the glorious crust of ketchup! When I started cooking on my own in highschool, I will admit I strayed away from the basics, making a goat cheese stuffed lamb meatloaf (a riff off this one) with a tandoori apricot glaze which, to date, is still my favourite variation. Granted, when I stopped being able to eat meat in 2006 (a whole other saga we won't get into) I never gave meatloaf another thought. 

That said, never say never! This summer, we introduced N to our go-to turkey burger recipe from when Mom and I were on WW in the early 2000s (shh), filled with turkey bacon and Monterey Jack cheese. Well, a convert was made (for good reason, they're amazing) and when N asked if it would be possible to make the burger mix into loaf form I was up for the challenge. It took some digging and time-guessing, but I eventually came up with a working formula of sorts. Unlike the classic burger, this needed a binder so an egg and some flax went in for added moisture and a hint of nuttiness. I opted for onion flakes and no turkey bacon because, well, I forgot to buy onion and turkey bacon before starting the recipe! As I used ground turkey breast, I added in a bit of fat with canola oil to keep it from drying out, along with the tamari and ketchup. The glaze was the piece de resistance, and I have to admit N was the inspiration for it! He developed a taste for hoisin sauce when I used it on a sandwich for him, and he mixed ketchup and maple syrup for a chicken sandwich once as well, so I mixed all three and slapped it on at the end. 

Given that this was my first meatloaf in a decade or more, I was extremely pleased with the result! Then again, the proof was in N's reaction when he made his first sandwich with it - and his second, and third... you get the picture. Yes, this will definitely be on the rotation again, and since it's a fairly small batch, it's perfect for one or two without leaving you with meatloaf sandwiches for days. Not that that's a bad thing mind you, but still!

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Cranberry-Pecan Pumpkin Bread #BreadBakers

This yeasted, whole wheat bread is filled with Autumnal spices, pureed pumpkin and handfuls of the fruit and nuts. They are perfect for toast or teatime spread with jam, honey or butter!

Holy creeholy it has been ages since I've been able to participate in a #BreadBakers event! The "Quarantine 15" was definitely felt around here, leading to a break from the bread-filled fridges and freezers we usually have. Thankfully, we are all back on track, and I have been allowed to start baking my beloved yeast breads again! 

This loaf is my first "hurrah to fall" type of bake, leading up to a season of apples, cranberries and pumpkins even though I still have one last zucchini to use up! I was on a "warming spice" kick from the gingersnaps and Chestnut Gingerbread dough I had made earlier in the week, and when I found a can of pumpkin in the pantry (which I believe we bought for the cat and/or rats to eat) I usurped it and decided to use it as my jumping-off point. Unlike most pumpkin loaves you see, this one is yeasted, but it is still full of all the traditional flavours and add-ins like pecans and dried cranberries! I used soy milk (as always) for the yeast development, and while I should have let the loaves rise a bit more (I had to jockey the oven with dinner) the crumb wasn't overly dense or doughy. Rather, the resulting bread became the perfect base for toast with butter, or (as mom discovered) honey-drizzled cream cheese as a snack. 

While not as unique as some of the other bakes you'll see linked below, this one is a classic for a reason, and one I will make again for sure!

#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 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.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Almond Praline Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are filled with Kamut flakes, luscious chocolate chips and crushed almond praline for a unique twist on the classic!
 

Chocolate chip cookies are a classic, for good reason. There are very few kids (or adults!) who will pass up every type of the combination, so whether you're serving fans of the chewy-crisp (AKA: the "right" cookie), the cakey or - gasp - the crunchy variety, there is a recipe out there that will be a hit. My mom, for example, loves the classic, back of the bag Chipits cookie with the addition of walnuts or pecans - entry level in every aspect, from it's creation (one bowl, all shortening, nothing fancy) to it's flavour and texture (sweet, occasional chocolate, and flat and crisp). I loved it too as a kid (because Mom made them, of course!) but when I started baking myself I definitely fell hard into the chewy, rich cookie camp. Whether they are made with egg yolks, tofu, potato chips or avocado, I did my best to keep that chew factor alive (side note: wow I've made a lot of chocolate chip cookies!).

These cookies arose out of my burst of pre-school year nervous energy, coupled with boredom (I'm busy waiting for my end of term university exams, thanks CV19) and a desire to get the "jump" on holiday baking. I also had a ton of "odds and ends" lying around my pantry and freezer, including Kamut flakes, cream cheese, and ground up almond praline frozen early in the summer (I used it for a crumble over apples). All of these, along with a whole bag of bittersweet chocolate chips, found their way into these cookies. What I really liked was that the almonds added a nutty flavour (boosted by the Kamut) without a crunchy, chunky texture. For some reason, I'm 100% okay with pretzel bits and potato chips in my cookies, but not candy coated chocolate or nuts! Instead, the sweet crumbs just infused the cookies and made every bite decadent. It is 100% worth making that praline again just to do these cookies, in my humble opinion! That said, if you don't want to go to the trouble of making candy and grinding it up just for these cookies, I strongly suggest picking up pre-candied almonds (or pecans!) and grinding them up or chopping finely. You won't regret it!
 
 

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Two Bite Gingersnaps

These Two Bite Gingersnaps are gluten free, vegan and surprisingly healthy - using homemade applesauce, @nakednutrition Naked Rice protein powder and just a bit of sugar! Made for teatime or as an after school treat, they're sure to be a hit!
 

There is nothing that sums up "Fall" quite like the warming spices and smells of the season. Think about it - the pies, coffees and cakes you find from September right through to Christmas often come laced with the intoxicating aromatics of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves or a combination of all of them! As a kid, I was never one for spice cookies like gingersnaps, but as I've grown my tastes have really started leaning towards that zingy ginger flavour (for instance, I just made chicken broth with a chunk of ginger in with the carrots and celery this afternoon!). Not only does ginger (and it's usual spice accompaniments) warm you up when it's blustery outside, but they are also great for helping to settle the tummy when you're stressed out or sick with a cold. 

These gingersnaps are crisp, spicy and lightly sweet, and their two-bite size makes them a perfect "cheat" snack any time of the day (especially on the drive home if you commute!). Made with applesauce and only a little bit of oil, they also lean towards the healthier side of the spectrum and by adding a bit of protein from Naked Rice protein powder they help keep you full a bit more than your standard box cookie. The baked cookies keep well in a container for a week or two, but the dough is also great to make ahead and freeze (either pre-portioned or as a block) for later baking. I made a double batch and froze half for the holiday season!

These cookies are a perfect option for the schoolroom or sharing platters, because they are free of gluten, dairy, eggs and nuts! No matter who you bake for, these cookies are a safe, delicious option and a comforting way to embrace the unknown months ahead.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Cinnamon Roll Cookies (GF/Vegan)

Gluten Free and Vegan Cinnamon Roll Cookies! Spicy, sweet and perfectly sized for popping into your mouth.
 

Who doesn't love the gooey, spicy bite of a cinnamon roll? I am in the midst of planning my holiday baking spree right now, and I came across a recipe that I made a few years ago and never got to share! I was first inspired to make my childhood favourite mall treat in a cookie form by one of my yoga instructors, who would comment on the smell coming from the cafe below the gym. She has celiac and associated milk allergy, so for the holidays I knew I had to try and make her something reminiscent of the bakery classics. 

Now, since I was trying to keep the cookies as non-irritating as possible for her digestion, I avoided the top 8 allergens including soy. Instead, I stuck to the original recipe, using coconut oil - a move that, ironically, mad me wear gloves the whole time because it's one of my allergies! That said, the dough, filling and even glaze smelled like heaven and my instructor was so grateful for a treat that was safe for her, making the minor convenience well worth it. The dough is in no way elastic or "rollable" like standard sugar cookie dough, so it did break and make not-so-pretty swirls, but the pockets of cinnamon filling were like little bursts of happiness. In all honesty, I think they are quite pretty in a Jackson Pollock type of way, and if you really don't like it, just heavy-glaze them like that internet famous Krispy Kreme (just kidding, don't do that... an even coating is fine). 

Like shortbreads, these cookies store well and are suitable for boxing, mailing and gifting - ours lasted a max of 3 weeks before everyone got and demolished them, but I'd wager another week would have been fine too. Once baked they don't fall apart, so they work well on a cookie tray as well - something that will make any gluten free people at your holiday party happy! You can also make the dough and freeze it pre-bake for last minute finishing, a bonus if (like me) you plan ahead.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Exotic Blackberry Jam - Toast Topper #88

This blackberry jam is flavoured with orange flower water and wildflower honey with a hint of cloves. Its a super special and not too sweet spread for your morning toast!
 
 
We are jam fiends around here - probably due to the amount of bread I bake! This year, as with every year, I wind up debating whether or not to properly can my batches of jam, because while they last longer (and are easier to gift), the water-bathing is often time and space consuming in our small, shared kitchen! That said, I do try to suck it up at least one day and process all the jams for the coming year - including this one that I first tried last year. It turned out to be a sleeper hit with everyone, so I was requested to make it again! This time, I simply refrigerated the jars because any I give away can be refrigerated within a few hours and the rest will be eaten in a few months (this jam will keep at least 4 months in the fridge if near the back and tightly lidded).

Unlike many "berry" jams, this one keeps the seeds in (our personal preference of course). You can certainly puree and strain the berries if you want / need this seedless though! The secret was the combination of honey, lime juice and orange flower water, which elevated the berries without overpowering their flavour. With less sugar than a "usual" jam, the fruit flavour was more prominent as well, which is what I, at least, look for in a Toast Topper. If there is any left over (if), I plan to make cookies with it in the middle or mix it into buttercream to top cupcakes!

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Cranberry-Coconut Granola Bars

These Cranberry-Coconut Granola Bars are a delicious snack for after school and since the recipe serves a crowd its great for playdates or parties too!

While I am the first person to admit we have no clue what September is going to hold in terms of school, I do know that fall is around the corner and in some way shape or form kids will be in need of snacks. Depending on where you are, nuts of any kind are a no-go in the lunchbox, making many store-bought granola bars verboten. Those that are "school safe" can also be astronomically high in sugar, salt and fat - and since we all sit way more than we should (even those live wires you see bouncing off the walls), a healthier alternative is generally preferable.

Interestingly enough (for me at least) this recipe was one our school made for our Thanksgiving lunch's "dessert" last year. We always try to get the kids involved with an aspect of the holiday meals, and being the Home Ec teacher at least one class gets me to incorporate the recipe into the curriculum! Given that we were in a totally different mindset last year, it was so easy to make this with the kids, since there was no boiling the sugars or sharp implements involved. What they (and I) liked the best was pressing the mixture onto the sheet tray - them because they got to show off how strong they were, and me because it minimized my contact with the coconut (ironically, the only "nut" we are allowed at school I am allergic to!). Even though the students were pretty young (grades 1-3), the recipe also allowed us to get lessons on fractions, states of matter, food science and even history in without being forced to sit in front of a blackboard (did I just say blackboard? I must be showing my age!).

The bars were crunchy, but not hard, and if we hadn't been serving them at the lunch I would have wrapped them individually in foil so the students could have a portable snack for after school. With no oil, these are low in fat while being high in fibre, and while there is a good amount of sugar you could probably cut the granulated stuff down a little bit if you like. I wouldn't cut it too much because that sugar's melting and re-crystallizing is what helps the bars hold together and get crisp! The recipe is gluten-free as written as well, and easily veganized with ground flax for the egg and using maple syrup or agave (or more corn syrup) for the honey. Speaking of the corn syrup, this is not the HFCS that was a buzzword many years ago - this is your standard Karo, which while still invert sugar, is not the devil of the food industry. The corn syrup and honey maintain the "chew" of the bars, which was the only kind of granola bar I ever liked! In terms of add-ins, try dried cherries and pumpkin seeds, or dried blueberries and almonds (if allowed wherever you're eating the bars, of course!). The base recipe works for so many variations!