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.