Saturday, May 23, 2020

Double Chocolate Protein Cookies with @nakednutrition

Need to add a protein boost to your day? Try these vegan, gluten free double chocolate cookies - full of decadent flavour with two scoops of @nakednutrition Naked Rice protein powder. 

One of the biggest things I miss about my pre-social distancing life was going to the gym. Now I'm no body-building, rock-hard-abs kind of girl, but I love my Zumba and the energy it gives me. At home, I keep up as best I can with classes - an interesting experiment when your "workout room" is also your office!

One of the things I do have to be mindful of in my day-to-day life is my protein intake. For me, this is not because I'm active (I have many friends who put me to shame in that respect) but because my autoimmune condition can make it difficult to get enough in every day. When I know I haven't been eating well, I opt to add a little protein powder to my food. I've never been one for drinking smoothies or milkshakes (of which protein powder always seems to become), but if the right powder came along I wouldn't mind giving it a shot! When Naked Nutrition approached me about a collaboration, I was intrigued - they were a new brand to me, and their transparent, no-nonsense labeling was a gigantic plus. So often I am stuck scanning label after label for gluten, dairy or my arch nemesis, coconut, but the website (and the bottles of powder) have clear, easy to read wording and nutrition facts.

Naked Nutrition is best known for their whey powders, and again it is easy to see why they're unique in a sea of various blends and flavours typically lining the shelves. For the longest time, whey in general has dominated the protein market, but since it's not an option for me I keep looking for alternates. Along the way, I've encountered powders that were gritty, slimy or that turned my drink or food into concrete - not a recipe for success - but when I saw that Naked Nutrition offered a rice protein I was intrigued. Rice has a tendency to be on the sweeter side naturally, but can also be gritty - how would this stack up?

Well, the first test was right when the 2.27kg bottle arrived - digging for the scoop (which always happens, I don't know why companies don't attach it like they do those ice-cream spoons) I took a little bit of the powder between my fingers. It was smooth - not baby-powder smooth, but smoother than most powders I've tried before. Taking that as a sign, I added a scoop to my mug of hot cocoa. The texture of the drink got a tiny bit thicker, but not like I was drinking a hot milkshake, and most importantly there was no grit or "off" flavour. It made the drink a little creamier though, as if I made it with whole milk instead of water. It has become my go-to treat on dance days!

Bolstered by those findings, I turned to my area of expertise - baking. I have several people in my life that (for whatever reason) could use a little boost of nutrition but who are also not big eaters. One thing they all have in common, though, is a love for chocolate and cookies. Taking that knowledge and my newfound protein powder, I set about tweaking a recipe I make with the kids in Home Economics class to make double chocolate, chewy, protein rich and lower-sugar cookies.

The cookies got a boost of flavour and fibre from the inclusion of oat flour and rolled oats, which I pulled from my gluten-free stash. Whenever I work with an oat-based cookie dough, or any gluten free batters in general (excepting my angel food cake), I always let it sit at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour at room temperature, which allows the dry ingredients to hydrate and the whole mixture to bake smoothly. My patience was rewarded with these thick, chewy discs - and now that I know they're a hit (they disappeared within a few days) I've made a double batch to hang out in my freezer, pre-scooped, for when the cookie hunger strikes again!

Many, many thanks to Naked Nutrition for this opportunity! Remember, Naked Rice is an all natural, nothing added protein that is gluten free and vegan, with a slightly sweet flavour and NO grit - perfect for adding to your smoothies as well as in culinary applications. Whether it is a mug of hot cocoa, a bowl of oatmeal or a chocolate-packed cookie, you'll never believe how smooth and tasty (or taste-free) this is!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Unstuffed Farro Cabbage Rolls

When your cabbage crop is ready but not looking perfect (holes in the leaves and not a perfect tight head to be seen) you switch gears from traditional to unstuffed cabbage rolls! This vegan dish gets meaty flavour and texture from red and green lentils, mushrooms and caramelized onions, while the standard rice gets a switchup to nutty, chewy farro. Each bite is packed with flavour and texture, perfect for Fall eating!

Yes, yes - this is yet another one from the archives of Instagram, or as I like to call it "where good food goes to die". I can't help it, these days all the hours blend into one another - between late nights writing essays (help me, English classes are worse than I remember), running Zoom classes for my grade 4-8 kids, trying to workout with virtual classes and actually cooking, sometimes getting around to writing about it all falls to the bottom of the pile. I do have a decent chunk of recipes in the pipe though, so thanks for bearing with me!

At any rate, this type of meal is exactly what I would go for in times of stress like now. Not only is is full of comforting, warming flavours (I'm looking now at the polar vortex supposed to smack us on the weekend) but it uses tons of cheap, hearty ingredients that also happen to be full of nutrition! After all, we have been stuck inside for what feels like an eon and while we do our best the stress is not good at all for our immune system - cue the sulfur compounds in the cabbage and the antioxidants is the tomatoes, lentils, garlic and paprika. The mushrooms give a boost of vitamin D which we all need after living indoors for so long, and adding in the farro boosts up the B vitamins and our friend fibre for a healthy digestive tract all over.

On the off chance that any of that science-y mumbo jumbo isn't your cup of tea, all you need to know is this recipe is hearty, healthy and absolutely delicious warm or cold - just make sure you have a large pot to put it all together, because the cabbage is a beast until it cooks down! It is well worth it, though, especially if you love the flavours of cabbage rolls and Mediterranian cuisine blended with classic Eastern European basics. If you're only cooking for one, take heart - this freezes very well and if you portion pre-freezing you can be set for over a week!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Fakels (Fake Bagels)

Out of yeast? These "fakels" (get it? Fake bagels? Nevermind) are made with a handful of ingredients and can be cutomized for your liking - these used up some dregs of various flours (including durum semolina) and were filled with dried fruit and topped with whole flax seeds for texture. Fluffy inside but not as dense or chewy as a real bagel, they are perfect candidates for toasting with jam, peanut butter or cream cheese.

I don't usually jump onto "bandwagons" with my cooking and baking exploits. I prefer to go my own way, playing with what I have on hand and coming up with twists on classical recipes. However, when I found myself with an excess of yogurt (which I had bought planning cornbread, only to find out I was out of cornmeal) I whipped up a loaf of soda bread (swapping yogurt for buttermilk) and opted for these no-boil quickbread bagels to use up the rest. Having made legitimate bagels before (and recently) I know how much tedious work goes into them, and the prospect of getting the doughy, chewy bagel without that step was tempting! To gild the lily (cause I have to) I tossed in handfuls of dried fruit and topped each with flax seeds for crunch. How would they come out?

Well, I will say this - they are not bagels. The inner texture is more cake like than doughy, and the outsides aren't smooth and shiny. You also need a wicked sharp serrated knife to get a clean slice. However - once you do get a good slice and you pop them under the broiler to toast (not a toaster, you will thank me), they are still excellent schmear holders, butter still soaks in, and they still satisfy as a breakfast or a snack. Would I eat them plain? Untoasted? No - these are the English muffins of bagels and demand caramelization. But in the days of no yeast, these may just have to do for now.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Famous Florentine

Pasta Florentine is a dead simple meal that can be made with pantry and freezer ingredients in under 30 minutes! I used @lightlifefoods crumbles for extra (vegetarian) protein, but feel free to use any meat or protein (like tofu or lentils). Half a block of frozen spinach and a can of evaporated milk make a rich sauce with pops of green that coats pasta perfectly. N loved it and can't wait to make it again!

I could have called this "quarantine florentine" but I resisted. You're welcome. 

This pasta dish is famous for N and I now, because it is dead-simple to prepare, is great hot or cold, and is one of the first things I taught him how to make! Like so much of my cooking during this era of long lines for the grocery store, empty shelves and generally feeling stressed out about everything, the majority of the ingredients for this lightened-up version of a classic were in my pantry and freezer, and are quite interchangeable. For instance, here, I used spaghetti (left over from Home Ec days) frozen whole-leaf spinach, vegan ground and evaporated whole milk. That said, if all you have is rigatoni, macaroni or egg noodles, go for it! Only finding frozen chopped spinach, frozen kale or another fresh leafy cooking green (like rapini)? Beautiful! Not into the vegan "meat"? Brown up some ground of your choice, chop up cooked chicken, toss in lentils or chickpeas or leave it out completely and serve the protein on the side. As for the dairy, I would not recommend skim evaporated milk (it likes to curdle and not thicken) but 2% will do, as will half-and-half, 18% or heavy cream. If you are using a "non-evaporated" dairy, keep an eye on it to avoid the nasty curdle or scorch factor - better to cook this lower and slower than burn it!

If you're organized, this is also a super-quick dish to pull together last minute and can be scaled up relatively simply. Leftovers are no problem at all, like I said leftovers are great cold or fried in a skillet (with or without eggs as a binder). When things settle down in the shops I can't wait to give this a go with some whole wheat pasta like fettuccine or even farfalle, as the nuttiness of the whole grain would lighten up the creamy sauce. Either way, it's a fantastic option when mac-and-cheese, grilled chicken and soup have lost their allure!

Monday, May 4, 2020

Fried Spaghetti

Not the prettiest dish but Fried Spaghetti is the most delicious, cheap leftovers revamp I've ever had! Adding a few eggs, cheese and herbs with a low and slow cook gets the pasta bottom nice and crispy - if youre extra skilled you can flip it all in one piece, but i usually break it up into chunks.

As a kid, I loved "cheap as chips" comfort food. The meals I often look back on with the most fondness are actually "leftover" meals that mom keeps telling me were thrown together because we didn't have anything else at the time - I'm talking "eggs the way somebody else's mother used to make them" (torn up stale bread, buttered and fried in a pan topped with sunny-side up eggs), leftover Kraft Dinner with a handful of frozen peas and some tomato sauce, and left over rice mixed with cottage cheese and salsa. All delicious, all 100% not gourmet or fancy in any way. In university, I carried these recipes with me, eating them for as long as I could before my stomach gave me issues, then making them for my roommates.

One of these recipes followed me all the way to today, where I make it with my younger Home Ec kids. Fried spaghetti is essentially just that - leftover sauced pasta fried in a skillet with eggs to hold it all together. Feeling fancy, I added a few herbs to the egg mixture, but in all honesty as long as the sauce you use is decent they are optional. The trick is to really take your time - you want a crispy, crunchy pasta on both sides but you also need the eggs to cook, so spread out the noodles as best you can and cook over medium or medium-low heat for at least 5 minutes a side. I made double batches for the kids and had fridge-cold pasta, so it took us about 10 minutes a side. That said, there were no complaints, and not a single scrap left over!

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Whole Wheat English Muffin Bread

Whole Wheat English Muffin Bread is perfect for the toaster, with a fine but spongy crumb and soft crust. I used oat milk creamer in the batter-like dough for a subtle sweetness and softness, and the whole thing can be ready in under 2 hours!

Growing up, I was all about the peanut butter and honey sandwiches. After Christmas, when we were faced with a glut of (delicious) Challah that was quickly going stale, we became masters of the sandwich, from PB&H at breakfast to hot turkey and gravy at lunch. The spongier and drier the bread, the better it was as all the fillings seeped in. The rest of the year we made so with "regular" bread - until Easter when the English muffins started proliferating the stores. English muffins are a weird beast - they really are boring until they are toasted and slathered with something - but they are also tiny! I have never been full off of one English muffin (except maybe when I was little) so I just opted out of them.

Enter, the English muffin bread. Yes, a whole loaf of nooks and crannies, begging to be popped into the toaster and slathered with whatever you please. Loaf form also prevents the whole wheat from becoming too gritty or prominent, and it stays fresh longer than the little guys too. Best of all is that you can control the size of your sandwich or toast - so a peanut butter sandwich has heft and staying power, even if you're grabbing it on the go. This loaf barely - barely cooled before it was cut into and tasted with a smear of butter, and for ease of storage and to maintain freshness Mom sliced and froze the rest. That way, you can pull out the number of slices you need, toast and go!

You will notice that the dough for this bread is way different from any other bread dough. It is a batter - no kneading, no rolling, no shaping. It's simply beat, scrape and bake. The high moisture content ensures maximum bubble and tenderness, leaving a spongy crumb just like the original muffins, and as a bonus you don't need to skip arm day at the gym (or bust out the dough hook). Just keep on going with the recipe and as long as your yeast isn't dead (or expired) you'll have bread on your table in less time than it takes to watch a Marvel movie.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Super Seedy Multigrain Sandwich Bread

These high rising loaves are packed with multigrain cereal, oats and a "super seed" mix of flax, chia and hemp seeds. Sweetened with honey, a slice or two is perfect toasted for breakfast with jam or your favourite nut butter!

I may have mentioned before that my mom (and I, back in the day) love "bits" in our bread. While there are (obviously) commercial loaves in the stores with various grains, nothing quite beats the homemade, real McCoy baked fresh. These loaves came about after my mom discovered a half-loaf of artisan multigrain bread from the market in the freezer, which was unfortunately freezer burned beyond use for anything but croutons or stuffing. I had also just come into possession of a beautiful jar of honey from my friend who has a backyard apiary, and upon tasting it I knew it would be perfect on toast, so why not in toast?

Turns out I had the base recipe from Restless Chipotle saved in my archives for a while... as in since 2016. Now, her recipe has changed and evolved over the years, and my version is different still. That said, it is an incredible medley of flavours and textures, rising high to the perfect "sandwich" height and ideal both fresh from the oven (if you don't care about tearing it) and toasted later on. I also love that the "add ins" are pretty variable. If you don't have the seed mix, pick your favourite (sunflower, pumpkin, chia and whole flax are all excellent choices) or use more oats instead. Vegan and avoiding honey? Use apple juice concentrate, pineapple juice (or pineapple honey), or agave. You can even cut down on the oil and use milk in it's place (though the loaf won't stay as soft for as long).

One thing I will say, is that as long as you have a bowl or a mixer that can handle the volume, make the full recipe. It is 100% worth it and it that way if things come up (which they inevitably do just as the bread runs out) you can pull out the second one from the freezer and save the day! As I'm writing this, my mom happened to look over my shoulder and ask when I'll be making this one again because it would be perfect for tomato sandwiches in Summer. I guess I have my marching orders!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Sweet Pineapple Yeast Bread

Tender, sweet and slightly tangy from pineapple juice, these loaves are a real treat any time of day, and are even better with a tropical trail mix kneaded in.

Sweet Pineapple Yeast Bread

As the days begin to get warmer, I start craving the sun and relaxed atmosphere of the summer. This year it's even more of a craving, since the topical adventure N and I were slated to go on was postponed as a result of the big bad nasty COVID. While I'm disappointed (of course), I am also fully aware that safety and security are paramount - and when I can travel in my kitchen, it isn't too bad of a tradeoff (plus, I can bake in PJs!).

Funny enough, I never really got into eating pineapple (aside from the fruit trays at parties) until I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis on top of my digestion woes. One of my coworkers had a sibling with it as well, and being from the tropics she had started eating large quantities of the fruit for the bromelain it contains (which is supposed to help break down inflammation). Now, this enzyme is only active in the fresh fruit (which explains why you can't put fresh pineapple in Jell-O but canned works) but canned pineapple (and it's juice) are still full of nutrients, especially vitamin C. I'm all for staying as healthy as I can (working in a school is petri dish-esque) so it was a tasty way to get it daily!

That said, I am really not a "juice drinker", so when Dole sent me a large can of it, I knew it would become something culinary. I had seen multiple postings of Hawaiian bread floating around the web back in 2017 when I got their care package, and decided a hefty batch of that would fit the bill. The pineapple juice helps soften the "grittiness" of the whole wheat flour and adds almost a honey note to the dough, playing off the handful of tropical trail mix I added to one of the three loaves on a whim. Keeping with the Hawaiian theme, I also opted for coconut milk and oil for it's richness and flavour. That said, if I was to make this again, I would shy away from the coconut products simply because kneading and shaping bread with gloves on is horrendous (I'm allergic to coconut so must avoid contact).

In the end, these loaves made for perfect toast and when you leave them out overnight to get stale, the best French toast ever! I actually used one loaf to make a version of Disney's Tonga Toast as a special Sunday treat for mom, and think bread pudding would be an excellent foil for this as well.

Even when we're stuck at home, why not escape to the tropics for a while? Dole (who sent me the pineapple juice I used in these loaves back when I made them in 2017!!) claims #SunshineForAll in 2020, and I'm telling you, we have all earned it!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Extra Blueberry Bagels

A dozen blueberry bagels were on the docket today, made with 100% whole wheat and a combination of frozen and dried blueberries. The secret? Using the thawed blueberry juice as part of the liquid to infuse every bite with fresh berry flavour!

It has been far too long since I made a batch of bagels. Truth be told, the Beet Bagels that I posted last week (and made in 2017) were the last round I baked in my kitchen! For me, bagels - while delectably chewy and the perfect snack - just became too much of a process while I was in school and working. So, to celebrate the end of my program (and my ability to add more letters to the end of my name) as well as give N a treat after an April like this, I broke out the pot, honey water and high gluten flour and got to work.

I picked blueberry as the flavour for these guys for one simple reason - N loves the blueberry bagels from his local store, but being a "specialty" item they only put them out one weekend a month - not fair, I say! Since I had a ton of local blueberries in my freezer from last summer as well as a container of the same berries that I had dried, I figured I'd combine the two into an uber-blueberry bagel dough. But that wasn't all! Fate has a funny way of working, and when I went to drain the frozen berries (I thawed them first, not wanting excess liquid or cold in my dough), it struck me: blueberry juice is full of flavour and colour, along with a natural sweetness, so why not use it as part of the liquid? I carefully measured it out and added enough water to make up the difference, and I had triple blueberry bagels on my hands.

The part I always found time consuming was the shaping and boiling, and that hasn't changed to be told. However, as long as your dough is not super high-hydration (I have done that before) the bagels will hold their shape after their bath and get a beautifully glossy exterior after baking as a result. They get puffy in the water too, so bear that in mind when choosing how many to add at once - as well as the fact you need to flip them over!

Even if the boiling has you grumbling, the scent that permeates your kitchen about 5 minutes after the bagels hit the oven will remind you just why you made them in the first place. A combination of fresh baked bread and a high-summer farmer's market with just a hint of doughnut shop from the nutmeg, these would by far be perfect just eaten plain. However, when N got his hands on them, the toast-butter test was first and they passed with flying colours. The next day, I turned one (which had "popped open" in boiling and so wasn't "pretty") into French Toast and even I was amazed at how perfect the interiors were. Dense but with just enough crannies to sop up butter or honey, but with enough moisture that they don't demand it, I definitely see myself making these again.

But that will have to wait till after I finish my English courses.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Cranberry Almond Boule

This Cranberry Almond Boule is made with a sourdough starter boosted with just a touch of yeast for extra lift (and a shorter rising time). Packed with whole wheat, slivered almonds and @oceanspraycanada Craisins, it is a perfect blend of flavours for a lazy breakfast or paired with aged cheese as a snack.

One of the benefits of this "limbo" period I'm in - until May, anyways - is that I get the chance to go through my pantry and really take stock of what I have. There are a few things I use regularly - flour and sugar for instance - but when it comes to "additions" I very rarely dive deep into the stash I have. This is compounded by the fact that I have a wealth of fruit, nuts and seeds in the freezer as well, and like I'm sure most of your freezers, most of the "stuff" goes there to die. However, with a spot of spare time on my hands before class last week, I quickly went through at least the front portion of my freezer, coming up with a tiny handful of slivered almonds from Christmas. A brief glance at my baking shelf saw a giant bag of dried cranberries that had been recently shunted to the front of the line after mom used up the end of the other bag in salad.

Still keeping with the "use up the pantry" theme, I brought out my good ol' sourdough started from the fridge and gave it a hefty feed the night before getting going, and fed it again a few hours before making the dough in earnest. I spotted a single package of active dry yeast (again from mom's baking at Christmas) in the pantry and although it was technically expired by a few weeks I figured I'd toss it in for kicks - if anything it would just dissolve and do nothing, but as luck would have it I was pleasantly surprised that it still had activity, although slightly less robust than usual. However, combined with the bubbly wild yeast, I got a readily rising loaf that, while higher hydration than some of my other whole wheat loaves, still handled like a dream and gave me a lovely, low rising peasant loaf with a subtle tang.

Like all my peasant style loaves, I opted to bake this one on a baking stone to get the bottom nice and crusty. However, if you don't have one, no worries! It will work just as well on a standard baking sheet. I may eventually try this recipe (scaled up) in my 7-qt Staub to create a "cloche" like environment, but I need to play with the ingredient amounts first as this recipe doesn't make enough dough to warrant the huge pot I have. At any rate, this is a keeper - and with luck I'll be able to try it out with other "found things" as well, since we need the freezer room for, you guessed it - more bread!

Monday, April 27, 2020

Yeasted Multigrain Beer Bread

This Yeasted Multigrain Beer Bread is lent a delicate hoppy taste from a can of Amber Ale and a gorgeous colour from egg yolks. It rises so high it looks like a half globe on the baking sheet! Sliced and spread with butter or topped with sharp Cheddar it is a hearty and healthy snack or side!

Back to the bread after a few days of rest this weekend! I don't know about you, but I am really starting to wonder what I'm going to be doing with myself soon - even though I start a new batch of courses in May, not having a real "routine" outside of my few hours of teaching is very... odd. That said, there will always be a need for bread in this household, and these loaves remind me that summer is right around the corner.

How does bread equate to summer? Well, the dough gets a huge boost of flavour from an amber ale that makes it's appearance at backyard BBQs and patio parties every summer here, and while I don't drink the smell of it brings me right back to summers spent camping and boating with my family. The rest of the dough is pretty standard, although packed with a variety of grains and seeds, and is rich with 8 egg yolks which keep the loaves soft for days even after slicing. The resulting bread is hearty and has almost a sourdough tang to it, which Mom enjoyed topped with aged Cheddar and a drizzle of honey. I imagine it would also make for a great side for soup or stew as well, or part of a ploughman's lunch.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Honeyed Quinoa Loaf

This hearty, 100% whole grain loaf is high rising, honey sweetened and studded with crunchy bites of red quinoa. Soy creamer makes for an impossibly high rising, soft crumb as well. The hardest part is waiting for it to cool!

I'll let you in on a little secret - I can't stand quinoa. Boiled, re-fried, steamed... the taste and texture is just off for me. I will deem it passable in flour or puffed form (I do like puffed quinoa and rice cakes, for example). However, mom takes the cake - er, bread - when it comes to embracing grains of all kinds, and when I had the last of a bag of quinoa sitting around in the pantry after making pilaf she suggested I use it as "bits" in bread. As fate would have it, that morning I stumbled across a loaf with quinoa on Mel's Kitchen Cafe and after taking stock of the pantry and fridge situation I decided to try it with a few tweaks.

First, and probably most obviously at this point, I made the whole recipe 100% whole grain. Mom and I are huge fans of the nutty flavour and increased nutrition of using whole grains in bread - and every time I make a batch I'm reminded of the "good old days" when I could eat it, so I know it's still a winner. I also only had red quinoa on hand so I used it instead of white, and with a glut of soy "dairy" in the fridge I made those the main liquids. For a little extra flavour I tossed in a bit of toasted sesame oil as well - you can never go wrong with that when "nutty" is the goal!

These loaves rose high, and rose quickly due to the warmth in my kitchen (between mom and I we had stove and oven on quite a bit that day) so the bread did flatten a bit in the oven (and spilled over the sides a bit). Next time I will keep a better eye on it, but appearances aside these loaves were everything we hoped for - soft, tender with a delicate crunch and full of sweet and nutty flavour.  They fit perfectly in the toaster and made excellent BLTs too from what I heard!


What are your favourite grains to bake with? Any I should try? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Apple Pecan Granola

Taking a break from all the bread (just for a day, I promise)! I realized I had fallen out of the habit of making granola, more due to my lack of time and organization than anything. But granola is not difficult to make! In fact, while this concoction I whipped up may have a couple odd ingredients, the method can't be simpler - one bowl, one pan, and 45 (mostly hands off) minutes is all it takes.

Granola is also incredibly versatile, as you can see by the fact I have a whole category devoted to it! So while I have kinako, hemp hearts and Kamut flakes in my pantry, feel free to swap out for ground flax or ground pecans (or just leave out the kinako), any other seed (or more pecans) and more large flake oats (or any other flaked grain). Regardless, it will be crispy, crunchy and tasting fantastic!

The only downside to this granola is that it was so good it got snapped up before I could take any sort of photo. I was so excited to gift jars of it (as always) to my friends over the holidays (yup another old post) that it was packed and dropped off before I thought of it - but all the more reason to make some more!

Apple Pecan Granola
Adapted from Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen
Makes 3 cups
1 1/2 cups large flake oats
1 cup Kamut flakes (or more large flake oats)
2 tbsp kinako (optional)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tbsp hemp hearts
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sweetened apple butter (I used homemade)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup dried cranberries (I use the reduced sugar ones)
  1. Heat the oven to 325°F (convection if you have it) and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, Kamut flakes, pecans, hemp hearts, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  3. Add the apple butter and vanilla, stirring well with a spatula (or your hands) until everything is thoroughly coated.
  4. Spread onto the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
  5. Stir and bake a further 10-15 minutes, until toasted and beginning to really crisp up.
  6. Turn off the oven and let cool inside for 15 minutes.
  7. Stir in the dried cranberries and store.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

3 Day Sourdough Bread

Three day sourdough bread takes ages but is really very light work, and yields deliciously tangy loaves perfect for sandwiches or toast with jam!

There is no doubt about it - April has been one bizarre month. We have gone from eagerly awaiting special meals out and vacations and planning for Summer break (not to mention my upcoming  university courses and Masters program) to being caught in limbo - things across the board have been put on hold or cancelled outright, I'm becoming better and better at navigating Zoom for teaching and now that I've finished my degree (the Summer courses were a prerequisite for my graduate studies) I'm kind of... lost. Don't get me wrong, the break is needed - the overwhelming stress of this last month was pushing me into burnout territory - but I now need to "re-learn" how to relax and not be working under pressure.

Two things that have really helped me with the stress of these ever-changing times have been virtual teaching and baking. I truly didn't realize how revitalized being around the students made me, so getting the chance to interact with them - even for an hour a week - is fantastic. Not to mention that a lot of them need that structure too. One of these days, I will get around to doing a few cooking videos for them (as "Home Ec" lessons), as soon as I can figure out how to edit.

The other major thing that has always helped with my stress levels is baking. Specifically, baking bread. There is something truly cathartic about something becoming alive in the kitchen, whether it is a quick-shot, two hour loaf or something that takes a little longer, like these loaves of whole-grain sourdough. Did I say a little longer? Sorry, I meant a lot longer. See, this sourdough recipe takes three days to complete. Why? Well, the longer you let sourdough ferment, the more complex and sour the flavour is, the more hydrated the flour is and the better the gluten structure. Not all sourdoughs take three days, but since this one uses cold retardation, the yeast is slowed down. Coupled with my 13 year old starter, by the time these loaves were cool enough to slice (more agonizing than the three days of waiting) they were perfect, almost akin to the sourdough I used to buy at the market in Ottawa.

Whether you just tear into a slice unadorned (I have been guilty of that), slather it with peanut butter or toast it and spread it with butter (cultured if you love tang like I do), you can't go wrong with these loaves. No starter? Check out the guide I found here to get going!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Beet Bagels

Bagels with a delicate pink hue and a touch of earthy (beet-given) sweetness are chewy and whole grain - perfect for breakfast!

Beet Bagels

I've been seeing a lot of people getting into baking these days while we're all stuck inside, and I for one am all for it! As a Home Economics teacher I am so used to hearing that my art is "long lost" and unnecessary in today's world of easy-to-find consumables. These days have seen a resurgence though, and while yeast is still impossible to find (thankfully I have a stash) for those of you who have scored the precious microbes I am hoping to finally catch up on documenting all the breads I had languishing in posting purgatory.

First up (because I just baked a batch of different bagels) are these cute, pink, beet infused bagels. Some of you know I grow a ton of heirloom beets every summer (well, maybe not this summer if I can't get seeds) and while I love them raw, I also roast up a bunch of them for various applications, including pickles, conserves and baking. I've made loaves of beet bread in the past, but when it came time to make holiday gifts for one of my coworkers back in 2018 (yup, told you this was an ancient recipe waiting for publication) I wanted to come up with something more portable that she could take with her to work for lunch or a snack. Thus, these bagels were born, based on a recipe I found on Discover Delicious.
Beet Bagels

The recipe won me over with the colour - I mean how can you not be drawn in by that pink hue? The recipe also appealed to me flavour wise as it used a pre-ferment, which like the much-adored sourdough allows part of the flour to absorb the water properly and ferment, giving the dough a delicate tang and smoothness. Malt powder is totally optional, but I added it because I had it on hand and felt it gave a "bagel-y" nuance to the finished product too. Like all good bagels, these are boiled in honey water before baking, which makes them chewy, shiny and perfect for slicing.

Beet Bagels

In the end, these bagels were everything I hoped for - a great size, chewy, with a delicate nuttiness from the whole wheat and an earthy sweetness from the beets. They took time to make (needing an overnight retardation in the fridge) but boy were they worth it, and I would 100% make them again.

What have you been baking these days? Anything new to cope with being isolated? Comment below!

Beet Bagels

Friday, April 17, 2020


Maghmour is known as Lebanese moussaka, and is a thick, smoky eggplant and bean stew packed with peppers, onions, tomatoes, smoked paprika and mint. I added a hefty pinch of pepper flakes to my version and served it over a rice and quinoa base for a hearty meal in a bowl that is the perfect comfort food in these troubled times.

While it may be Spring according to the calendar, it sure doesn't feel like it! Just yesterday while I was teaching (e-learning is going surprisingly well on my end any way) the kids and I all stopped for a moment to appreciate the blizzard that appeared out of nowhere and disappeared just as fast! The chill in the air also remained, although we are hearing that it will warm up eventually. Until then (and definitely until life gets back some semblance of normal), comfort food is on the menu. Mom is a huge eggplant fan and when I saw a recipe featuring it (and lots of other favourite Mediterranean things) I knew she'd adore it. Luckily, we have enough grocery stores near us that the wait is never too too long, but I still tried to keep the list to what was in our fridge and pantry (namely onions, peppers, tomatoes, chickpeas and grains) and throw as much flavour as I could at it. In this case, I am very lucky to have a well-stocked spice cupboard so things like dried mint and Aleppo pepper just are, but if you want to make this and don't have those things on hand either leave them out or throw thyme or basil or parsley at it - it will all taste good and you'll have a healthy meal on hand for when you can't be bothered to cook (or shop) again.

Like I said, this recipe is forgiving - don't have or want chickpeas? Use another legume (lentils, kidney beans) or swap them out for 3 cooked, diced chicken breasts folded in at the end. Or leave out the protein completely and serve it alongside - I've heard that it pairs well with pork tenderloin too.

Here's to better (and warmer) days ahead - we can only go up from here!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Nana Cake

 N used to eat a variation of this cake every year for his birthday, when his nana made it for him. Today's revamp is a rich, whole grain spice cake topped with homemade blueberry pie filling and Chantilly cream. Different yet decadent!

In the midst of all this last-minute "re-learning" with online schooling - as both teacher and student - March and April have basically been non-starters for writing on this blog. If you are still tuned in, thank you for your patience! I have been cooking here and there (despite how difficult grocery shopping has become) and you can always find my latest yums on Instagram as well - I will get to the recipes on here one day!

Anyways, this cake is far more than it's relatively simplistic construction. N's birthday was back in December (see how far behind I am?) but when I asked him what kind of cake he wanted, he told me a story of the kind his grandmother used to make for him right up until she passed away. It was simple in essence - a baked box-mix cake topped with a can of pie filling and a tub of Cool Whip - but he adored it and confided that he wished he could have it again. When I asked if a homemade version would suffice (I hate box cake mix as a rule - not because of the ingredients but because of the sound our hand beaters make mixing it) he was excited and gave me free reign, as long as it wasn't chocolate. Perfect - I had a ton of odds and ends around the pantry and fridge after a month of sweet baking with Home Economics, so I quickly settled on a spice cake, and the ends of that fall's blueberries that I had frozen became the filling. 

Of course, I can't set out baking something and not tweak it! I knew I wanted to keep the flavour profile relatively rustic and traditional, so I went with a combo of oats and whole wheat flour in addition to the "white" stuff and used my own (homemade) pumpkin pie spice to add fresh and pronounced flavour. The pie filling was kissed with spices and orange and capped off with a tiny dose of orange flower water for just a little touch of flair. Both components also took advantage of the toasted sugar I had made up every few months after discovering the recipe and I'm glad I made that call - everything smelled cozy and warming. 

I toted all three components - cake, filling and whipped cream - separately to his place and assembled the "nana cake" there. Let me tell you - it didn't last very long, even with the rest of the seasonal sweets abounding!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Double-Glazed Caramel Cinnamon Rolls

When you need to celebrate but don't like cake, why not make these indulgent, brioche like cinnamon rolls the star? They stay soft for days thanks to a hefty dose of cream, butter and a hint of caramel in the dough, while a double glaze - first honey butter right out of the oven, then cream cheese frosting after they cool for an hour - adds even more decadence.

With all the insanity going on in the world today, it's hard to remember that there are still celebrations to be had! We are in the thick of birthday season (as I call it) here - between the beginning of March and the end of April there are no fewer than 6 birthdays in the family, mine included! In addition to the birthdays, lots of other little "yay days" are still going on, and now that I'm stuck at home for at least three weeks while the schools are closed I have become the de facto baker for them. 

One of my proudest achievements - besides my mom's requisite birthday cake - was this ginormous batch of fluffy, rich cinnamon rolls for my sister's work. One of the vet techs at her clinic, Kelly, was celebrating 20 years of service - a huge accomplishment for a field where burnout and turnover are sky high. However, Kelly is not a fan of cake in any form. I can't fault her for that, to each their own, and when they asked what she did like she said the one thing that spoke to my soul: cinnamon rolls.


Now, I have made cinnamon rolls several times before - from coffee laced to minis to my piece de resistance of laminated cream cheese and granola - but these I kept more or less basic in flavour with enough twists to the formula to keep them soft, moist and sweet for days. My first trick was using cream - not milk - to make the dough, which began the enrichment process, followed by a hefty dose of butter, eggs and the second secret - caramel sundae topping. The thick inverted sugars in the caramel prevented the dough drying out like it would with regular sugar and added a complex hint of flavour and colour that you won't get anywhere else. A splash of vanilla and pinch of nutmeg rounded out the sweet dough, making it perfect on its own. But since they are cinnamon rolls, they demanded a filling, and I kept that simple with butter, sugar and cinnamon.

Onto baking, which was no different than a smaller batch of rolls with the exception of a little more monitoring. The batch made 24, which could be done in two 9x13 pans, but I found a lovely foil roasting pan at the dollar store which fit them perfectly and kept transport easy! To compensate for the middle rolls getting less heat and possibly being underdone, I heated my smaller pizza stone on the rack before putting the raised rolls in, which blasted the middle of the foil pan with heat and ensured even baking. It would probably work without it, but better safe than sorry!

Finally, while the rolls were baking and smelling heavenly, I prepared the pre-glaze that would go on the hot buns right out of the oven. This was a little trick I picked up from either Serious Eats or The Kitchn (can't remember which, sorry) where they double frosted the buns. Not wanting the "gooiness" to be too hard to manage (these people work with furry creatures after all) I stuck to a simple vanilla, honey, butter and cream mixture which soaked into the bread and sealed in the rich, soft and fluffy nature of the rolls. After they cooled completely (on the counter overnight, which was torture but please don't refrigerate yet!) I heated up about 1 ½ cups of my cream cheese buttercream until just runny and spread it roughly over the rolls just to cover each. The leftover frosting was tinted and used for piping - purely optional, but if you're going to celebrate go whole hog!

Now, I know this recipe makes a lot of buns, but you can halve it to a more manageable 12 or even make the whole recipe, place in two pans and freeze after the first rise and shaping for up to 3 months. When you have a craving for sticky bun goodness, thaw the frozen pan overnight in the fridge, let rise on the counter for 45 minutes - 1 hour then bake and double glaze as usual. Problem solved!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Cookies Made Fancy with the @empossedpin #empossedpin

This beautiful Paisley embossed rolling pin from @embossedpin is not only so stunning you'll want to keep it on display (no junk drawer designation here!) but the solid beech wood cleans easily and works on even the softest, most finicky dough. I tried it on my mom's shortbread recipe (notorious for getting stuck in cookie cutters) and the design imprinted cleanly and there was almost no cleanup - simply using a pastry brush to clean off the flour and a quick wipe with a damp sponge and it's good to go again! Check out all the offerings on their website

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I'll let you in on a little secret - I hate rolling dough out. I don't know why. Maybe I can't get the consistency just right, I make the dough too thin, something just doesn't work. However, I'm also a sucker for beautiful things, especially those made of wood. When I was approached by Embossed to test and review their rolling pins, I was a little apprehensive as to how they'd work - after all, if I have trouble with a smooth rolling pin, this would spell disaster, right?

Thankfully, I was wrong - very wrong. These rolling pins, though on the shorter side, are etched to the perfect depth. Not too shallow where the print (I had a fantastic paisley print one, but they make a variety of styles) won't show up, but not so deep the dough sticks, tears and makes a mess. I used this pin on my mom's shortbread cookie dough, which is notorious for sticking, and I had absolutely no problems after I dusted the dough with flour. The print stayed clear and crisp even after baking, and I got so many compliments on the cookies! The other thing was these rolling pins are incredibly easy to clean. A quick wipe with a damp cloth took off the flour from the external surface, while anything stuck in the crannies (I had maybe 2 clumps) I let dry and brushed off with a pastry brush. The pin is so beautiful it stays on my counter permanently and because the beech wood of the embossed rolling pin is not stained or treated (they are 100% food-safe and free of BPA or any other toxic substances) I don't have to worry about it discolouring, flaking, leaching or otherwise looking sad and forlorn. I am currently looking at finding an easel stand for it so it can be in the pride of place.

If you love beauty and function in a simple and easy to use package, I highly recommend one of these rolling pins from Embossed. You can also feel great knowing you're supporting a small business invested in making beautiful things for the every day person that will last a lifetime!

Please look below for more info:
How to use the rolling pin
FAQs about Embossed

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Moroccan Braised Vegetables with Tofu and Rice

Bring some exoticism to your kitchen with these Moroccan Braised Vegetables with Tofu and Rice! A hearty medley of artichokes, peppers, kale and tomatoes are spiced with an aromatic spice blend and studded with dried fruit. Brown basmati rice soaks up the rest of the broth making this a one-dish meal perfect for chilly winter days.

It's well known by now that I love Moroccan food - the spice blends and combination of savoury and sweet flavours, along with the abundance of vegetables, grains and legumes are enough to make me want to book a trip this instant! While boarding a plane may be a bit out of reach for me, I can travel there with food, and this braised tofu, vegetable and rice dish is a great place to start!

Apparently I am really into braising this winter - and for good reason. It is the perfect way to set yourself up for a hearty, warming meal with minimum effort, as long as you have a good heavy pot to do it in! I was inspired by a chicken dish by Only Gluten Free Recipes that popped up on my timeline the other day, and since it was time for me to make more lunches for mom this week it made it to the immediate "must make" list. I changed it up a bit from the original for our tastes, making the recipe vegan (mom prefers meatless meals a few times a week) and bumping up the veggies a ton. The best part about the recipe is after the initial chopping and sauteing is done, it really is a "set it and forget it" type of meal cooking all in one pot. While it bakes away in the oven, your house will start smelling like the most fragrant spice market - I suggest you go do something (clean the basement, mop the floor, take a shower) so that you won't be tempted to lift the lid till it's done - the wait is worth it, I promise!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Doenjang Braised Chicken and Vegetables

This ain't your mommas braised chicken - this pot of comfort (also containing sweet potatoes, carrots and long beans) gets a boost of rich flavour from Korean doenjang (soybean paste) and sriracha. Spicy and savoury, its perfect alongside rice for a warming hearty and healthy meal!

Winter is definitely time for braising, and today is no exception! There really is not much simpler, or more comforting, than browning some proteins and vegetables, pouring in some stock and letting everything simmer away for a few hours. One of my favourite things about braising is that the flavour combinations are infinite - I made a more traditional one earlier this month with a whole bird, but when I was putting groceries away I came across a half-tub of Korean bean paste that I had used for soup a few months ago and knew I needed to do something to use it up. A browse of the local store flyers found chicken legs on for a great price, and with some hearty, low-cost winter vegetables on hand already I had the basis for a great meal. After just over an hour, the chicken was cooked along with the veggies, and the broth thickened to coat everything in a luscious gravy perfect for the sticky rice I cooked up alongside. The best part? It used up all the leftover doenjang as well as the last of the Sriracha and veggies left over from the holidays!

I had never cooked anything with doenjang besides soup - and even that was cheating because I used a recipe for miso broth using it. However, the beauty of the Internet led me to the blog With a Glass, where I found the basis for this braised chicken legs dish. Of course, I had to triple the recipe and add a boatload of vegetables to satisfy mom's love of them (I am her daughter in every respect - I love veggies too!), and since I had just cooked down a big batch of turkey stock from the holidays I used a bunch of that too. The mixture of flavours - which were otherwise somewhat foreign to me - was absolutely insane in the best of ways. We had company for dinner that night too, and even though they didn't get to taste it (mom hoarded it for her lunches) commented on how lovely the house The skin and backbones were saved and added to (separate) pots to make schmaltz and more stock, respectively - I can't waste a thing! 

If you can get your hands on this funky (literally) bean paste, I strongly recommend giving it a try. I detest the poppy words like "flavour bomb" but this is really it in every sense, as well as being healthy, hearty and a new twist on your standard fare.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Triple Chocolate Cookies are filled with decadence - heavy cream, dark cocoa, toasted sugar and Nutella with a smattering of chocolate chips! A touch of tapioca flour makes them chewy and soft for days - if they last that long!

Some days require chocolate - and a lot of it. The whole of last week screamed a need for comfort everything, as not only did I have exams (the last for my undergrad, though not the last of the last) but we lost two pets as well. Even though neither animal's passing was unexpected, it's never easy saying goodbye and my sister (who is a vet tech) took it particularly hard. When I am under stress, I turn to the kitchen for comfort, and this time was no different. Chocolate needed to be involved, and fast!

Cookies are always an easy sell to my sister, especially packed full of chocolate, and these ones are so rich they're like eating baked truffles. Not only are they sinfully rich, but they are fast to whip up, meaning I had a batch cooling in under an hour that would be enough to last us at least a few days. The addition of the tapioca starch - a trick I believed I picked up from Alton Brown years ago - made the cookies chewy and almost brownie-like and kept them that way for ages. Even my sister commented that she was shocked they stayed soft even 4 days later (and they were on a plate covered with a towel, that's it!). Since we are not only chocolate, but Nutella lovers (well I was until my allergies developed) a hearty dose of the spread made their way into the batter too.

While the circumstances surrounding the baking of these sweet treats were unfortunate, to say the least, I'm still glad they could bring a dose of comfort to my sister during a no-good week. Chocolate may not have all the answers, but my answer will always be more please!

Monday, January 13, 2020

Buttermilk Candy

This crumbly, melt in your mouth Buttermilk Candy tastes just like Werthers and is a great way to use up the last of the buttermilk from baking!

If you're like me, when you buy a carton of buttermilk you never use it all in one shot. Often, it's three quarters of a cup for biscuits, or a cup for cake. The rest of the quart sits languishing in the fridge until I come up with something! Not needing to expand the baked good stash in our freezer, I looked around to see if there were any other alternatives and came across a recipe for crumbly, caramelly candy using the dairy in one of my old cookbooks. Interested, and seeing as I had all the ingredients on hand, I gave it a shot.

I soon discovered that buttermilk can be finicky to work with in a candy, especially since the acidity doesn't always react as you'd expect. However, with careful watching and stirring, the whole process was well worth it! If you know Werthers caramels, a taste of this will bring you right back to your grandma's house (if you're like me, my grandparents hoarded those caramels!). The candy is made like fudge, but the texture is crumbly and somewhat sandy instead of creamy and smooth (maybe due to the acid?) and melts in your mouth. The tang of the buttermilk also cuts the cloying sweetness usually found in candy like this, meaning that it's just a little bit easier to eat a little bit more (hey, I never said I was one for New Years resolutions!).

So, if you've got that carton of rich, tangy goodness hanging out in the back of your fridge, give this candy a shot. You'll fall in love with it too, and since sharing is caring you can spread the love (and calories) to everyone!

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Chicken in a Pot (Braised Chicken)

Is there anything more comforting than chicken in a pot? Even though it was slightly freezer-burnt (my fault for throwing a whole bird in without wrapping it properly) the moist cooking process makes the meat fall apart tender and a perfect accompaniment to the carrots, celery, onions and potatoes. Of course, a glug of white wine doesn't hurt either!

I know - it's only been a few weeks since turkey day and I'm sure everyone has just finished eating the leftovers (I know we have). That said, it's always nice to have a hearty, warm meal after a long week back to work and school, especially when the weather is cold and dreary like today. My hand was somewhat forced with this method of cooking (although it is still fully appropriate for these days) since when I went into my freezer to find something (probably cookie dough) I came across this bird, still in the original packaging, and looking slightly freezer-burned. Not one to waste food, I decided that I would try a low, slow and moist cooking method to try and re-invigorate the meat. With a pantry full of heart vegetables on hand, I got to work figuring that at the very least I'd have a good soup even if the meat wasn't overly palatable.

When I pulled the dish out of the oven, I was pleasantly shocked to discover that the meat was falling off the bone, the vegetables were cooked to perfection and the skin of the chicken was a perfectly burnished gold. I portioned the meat into individual containers with the veggies and gravy for mom to enjoy throughout the week, which was a welcome treat even after the poultry-geddon we just got through. While I won't make the mistake of freezing the bird in it's original wrapping again (at least not for an 8 month stretch), I will be making this again. The aromas alone are worth it, and the meal isn't half bad either!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Sourdough Cinnamon English Muffins

Sourdough Cinnamon English Muffins are easy to whip up and freeze beautifully too. Split one up and drizzle with honey (or maple syrup!) for a breakfast worth waking up for.

I have fond memories going grocery shopping with mom as a kid. When we would stop by the bakery section, I always got a cookie (there was always free coffee too) and we would stock up for the week. When mom picked up a pack of English muffins, I always knew I hit the jackpot - essentially delivery vehicles for butter, honey or Nutella, they would quickly disappear, and because they were an occasional indulgence they were always coveted.

These days, I've become the baker at home, and with a couple households of sourdough lovers to cater for I was excited to find a recipe for naturally leavened English muffins! Rye anything is always a hit when paired with sourdough, so that was a given addition (not to mention it helped keep them tender), and I used an extra dose of whole grains with whole wheat to make these condiment vessels a bit more wholesome. Since you can never go wrong with cinnamon (at least in my book), a dash of the spice and a sprinkling of raw sugar upped the ante.

Now, being sourdough, these aren't a quick project - plan for at least a 24 hour turnaround time. However, as a weekend project there really isn't much "busy work" to do, and the recipe doubles and triples easily so you can stock up and freeze them at the beginning of the month for homemade treats any time!

Monday, January 6, 2020

Sugar Free Cherry Ginger Jam - Toast Topper #86

This sugar free cherry jam is spiked with ginger and a hint of gold leaf for an elegant Toast Topper perfect for company...or just yourself!

One of the things I knew I wanted to make my future mother in law for Christmas was a sugar free jam. While she loves to put jam on her toast, the no-sugar-added jams currently available on the market can be prohibitively expensive and limited in the range of flavours. Since I make Toast Topper for most of my giftees at holiday time, I decided to put up a small batch for her.

As for the flavours, I had a stash of local cherries in my freezer and knew that would be my base. Not wanting to leave it at just that (although it is delicious), I added a dose of ginger for a seasonal zing. Finally, just to be fancy, I sprinkled in a touch of edible gold flakes - everyone needs a bit of sparkle every day!

I know that a lot of people are leery about artificial sweeteners like Splenda, and I say to each their own (I use it in my cooking if I'm looking to cut the sugar or if I'm cooking for diabetics). You can certainly use sugar or another sweetener of your choice in place of it here, just make sure it is heat stable since it has to go through the cooking and canning process. Stevia blends like Truvia will likely work but I have not tested with those. Happy jamming!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Orange Sauce for Roast Duck

Orange Sauce for Roast Duck is a decadent accompaniment to the fowl, and much less fussy than the traditional Duck a l'Orange. The secret? Duck fat as a finisher and extra orange zest!

The end of December was the season of duck! It's been a relatively novel culinary experience for me - cooking it at least (N got to eat it!). I had never tried duck until I moved to Ottawa for university, but that was a restaurant. I only had the chance to cook the poultry this summer, when N picked up a plump breast from White House Meats and I gave it the cast iron skillet treatment. Apparently I didn't do a half-bad job, because for his birthday I was specifically asked to make a whole (slow) roasted bird, and then for kicks I picked up another breast as his second celebration meal!

Of course, while duck itself doesn't really need an accompaniment, there is the little matter of a traditional dish called Duck a l'Orange - my mom introduced me to it's concept when I was young, and commented that it, along with Crepes Suzette, were some of her favourites. Inspired, but not willing to over-complicate an already tricky (to me) roast process, I made an orange sauce to drizzle over the meat after it was cooked to perfection. I had leftover duck fat (from the breast) sitting in my freezer, so instead of the butter in the original recipe, I whisked that in. For extra flavour, I used raw sugar and raspberry wine vinegar which played off the fresh orange juice beautifully. All that was required was a touch of salt and pepper at the end - although rosemary or thyme would also be a perfect addition at serving time!

If you love sweet and savoury along with your meats, this sauce is right up your alley! It would work with other types of orange too - blood orange would really pop colour wise and add an exotic flavour, while clementines puree into a sweet juice and the peels are thin and mince-able with no need for a zester.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Peppermint Meringue Christmas Trees

Meringue trees - the perfect use for all the leftover egg whites from shortbread baking!

If there was ever a feel-good holiday cookie for the dieter, the meringue is it. The egg white foam cookies are lighter than air, come in all sorts of colours and whatever flavour you can basically dream of - making them versatile and the perfect sweet treat.

Now that January has rolled around and the gym is packed (as is the natural foods aisle of the grocery store), these cookies are in their element. We're still not ready to swear off sweets entirely, but one or two meringues never hurt anyone, and the minty flavour of these also staves you off from polishing off the whole tray. While these are obviously in the shape of Christmas trees, you could also just make swirls or even "snowy" trees dusted with a touch of icing sugar. The possibilities are endless, and I look forward to making more meringues since the shortbreads aren't quite done yet!