Monday, July 26, 2021

Sweet Potato Cranberry Spice Cookies

These little Sweet Potato Cranberry Spice Cookies are gluten free and vegan but full of flavour from homemade pumpkin pie spice! The recipe makes a big batch of dough which is perfect for freezing ahead - thaw and bake whenever the craving strikes!
I'm going to start this off by saying... I know. It's not fall, its 30C and sunny outside, people are lounging around eating watermelon and ice cream. Most people are not cranking up their oven for anything.

But I'm not most people! I love the flavours of spice and fall, and baking is something I will do no matter the weather (unless out AC goes out in the middle of summer, which has happened!). So when I was playing around last summer to come up with holiday cookies, I came across some pumpkin cookies that looked like a hit for me and a few of my gluten free friends. However, because it was the middle of summer, canned pumpkin wasn't overly available. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, were - and I actually much prefer the flavour over pumpkin. With the spices, the bit of richness from the brown sugar blend and the dash of maple extract, the dough smelled amazing, and the craisins I tossed in added the tiniest bit of tang and fruity flavour. Being gluten free, nut free and vegan, they were also a hit with the kids I taught and safe for the school environment (they would be great for camp too!).

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Cinnamon-Honey Raisin Bagels

Cinnamon-Honey Raisin Bagels are all the best parts of childhood in a chewy, perfectly toastable whole grain package. Smeared with cream cheese, butter or your favorite jam, you can't go wrong!
My family used to have a ritual when us kids were in school: at least once a month, the four of us would pile into the car and head to the bagel shop for a baker's dozen of goodies: my sister and I would each choose four of our favourites, and mom and dad would pick the other five. When it came to my sister, she rotated between three favourites: chocolate chip, plain, and cinnamon raisin. I have to admit, the cinnamon raisin bagels were incredible toasted with butter, and if they were out of sourdough (my fave), they were second on my list!
So it made me smile when my sister came to me asking for a whole grain version of her old favourites to take with her to work. I added in a squeeze of honey to accent the whole wheat and raisin flavour, and (as all bagels should be) I boiled them in honey water for an extra bump of flavour and shine. While I don't have a wood burning oven a la the Montreal style bagels I love, I did bake these on a baking stone which gave them an awesome, blistery texture.
Cooled and sliced, they were frozen on a tray for a quick grab in the morning - they would thaw by lunch and be ready for margarine or peanut butter!

The Bread Bakers Event for July 2021 is Favorite Breads, be sure to check out all the favorites baked this week!
#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, July 11, 2021

Rhubarb Snacking Cake

A simple, yet delicious snack cake is packed with homegrown rhubarb and topped with a sprinkling of sugar for extra sparkle! 

My stepdad harvested a huge bunch of rhubarb from his garden the other day and gave it to me to cook with. Normally my rhubarb goes into either pie or preserves, but since I had no patience for pastry and I was not about to haul out the canner I started browsing around for a different option that would still fit the summer vibe. I came across a great looking cake recipe from
A Veg Taste from A to Z and with a few substitutions I had everything on hand, so I set to it!
What I love about this cake is that it's a perfect mix of scone and cake, slightly muffiny and just the right amount of sweetness. The small amount of oats lent a nutty flavour to the batter and a tiny sprinkle of sugar on top added a delicate crunch and sparkle. The best part is that it is fast to whip up, the slowest part is chopping the rhubarb. The speed is especially quick if you're using weight to measure, since there are no measuring cups needed! 
Once the cake is cool, it can be wrapped in foil and frozen for later or kept wrapped in the fridge for up to 5 days. We served it with vanilla ice cream at a barbeque and it was a hit! 

Friday, July 9, 2021

Chocolate Centred Wowbutter Wafers

These rich and nutty cookies are completely #peanutfree - surprise! They get their flavour from a dose of @wow_butter and the sweetness is offset by a bittersweet chocolate centre.

I'm going to admit it, I made these cookies ages ago - like 2019 ages ago. 2020 was a total writeoff year, as was most of this year - so I'm getting around to my ye olde posts!

At any rate, these cookies are the quintessential combination of perfection for me - nuttiness, sweetness and chocolate all in a chewy bite. Because these are so simple though, the quality of ingredients - particularly the chocolate - is paramount! I used WowButter to make these nut free for guests, but you can use any nut or seed spread you wish! Store in an airtight container up to a week (if they last that long, that is!).

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Nostalgic Strawberry Rhubarb Jam - Toast Topper #92

Can you capture nostalgia in a jar? This Strawberry Rhubarb Jam tastes exactly how I remember my grandma's to be - and it should since its only 3 ingredients, time and heat! Simple is often the best!

For once, our rhubarb and the local strawberries managed to peak at the same time! I love this time of year when everything is fresh and bright - and nothing reminds me more of one particular childhood summer than strawberry rhubarb jam. I'm sure my paternal grandmother made it more than once, but there is a definite memory of a summer when I was about 10 or so where we visited a community garden and farm stall prior to me helping her make dill pickles and strawberry rhubarb freezer jam. I used to swear I hated rhubarb too - what kid would like this sour / bitter vegetable of all things? But her jam convinced me that it was possible to make it taste good with enough sugar and strawberries added in!

I came across a recipe similar to my grandma's on Food52 and decided to give it a go with a few other tricks I had from an old church cookbook, namely freezing the strawberries, rhubarb and a tiny bit of sugar first before completing the maceration. I'm not entirely sure what this does to be honest, except draw out extra liquid and leaving the berries and rhubarb a bit more chunky. Whatever it did or didn't do, this recipe is a keeper - it's perfect for a small glut of strawberries or when you only have a few jam lovers in the house (shocker, I know).

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Chocolate Chip Date Muffins

These muffins are the perfect example of an accident gone right! I totally forgot the sugar in my Chocolate Chip Date Muffins, but thankfully the @nakednutrition Naked Shake Peanut Butter Blueberry along with the chocolate and fruit more than made up for it! Not super sweet, they are a fantastic breakfast item (yes, chocolate is a breakfast food!)

One of my classic sayings as a teacher was always "I can't expect perfection because I am not perfect". It is a pretty good life lesson to live by, if I'm being honest! In the kitchen, I kind of pride myself in turning mistakes into (at least) tasty treats, if the mistake itself isn't to my satisfaction. Then again, sometimes I'll make an error (usually while distracted - I have an infamous "shiny" complex) and the result is exactly what I was going for!
This was definitely the case with these muffins - I had planned to make a batch of chocolate chip and date muffins for N to take home a few weeks ago, but in the mist of talking with him, watching clips of CSI on the TV and cleaning as I went, I wound up forgetting all the sugar listed in the original recipe until they were in the oven. As the time ticked by, I fretted - would they be bland? Hard as rocks? Worthy only as slingshot ammunition? Sugar, after all, doesn't only provide sweetness but a certain hygroscopic bonus that keeps baked goods moist. In the middle of my apologizing profusely, N reached over and grabbed a freshly cooled muffin, took a bite and went, "if you left out the sugar, do it again. These are good!" Okay then. Point taken! 

Thinking back, I figured it was the sweetness from the Naked Shake Peanut Butter Blueberry powder, the dates and the chocolate that gave the muffins enough of an edge to not be "bland". The oats do need a little bit of time to soak up the liquid so I noted that in the directions. If you don't have the specific shake powder, any vanilla protein shake powder or a peanut butter protein shake powder would work perfectly fine. Just don't use an unflavoured, unsweetened one!

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Casino Cuisine: World’s Finest Casino Restaurants

In the past, casino dining most often meant all-you-can-eat buffets. Today, many casinos have partnered with world-famous chefs or have developed incredible dining experiences that become highly desired destinations on their own. And while online casinos are ever-increasingly popular, land-based establishments offer additional value through amenities like art collections, golf courses and fine restaurants. Despite the different advantages of an online casino such as Rizk, some people will always be drawn to luxurious casino resorts, considering how they also offer a significant social value.

Robuchon Au Dôme – Grand Lisboa Hotel, Macau

Robuchon au Dôme is located in the spectacular, multi-story glass dome on the 43rd Floor of the Grand Lisboa Hotel in Macau. In the center of the restaurant is a beautiful chandelier with over 131,000 pieces of Swarovski crystal. The panoramic views and the decor inside are simply stunning.

Boasting cuisine and a vast wine selection as spectacular as the setting, Robuchon au Dôme has been awarded three Michelin stars and the Wine Spectator’s Grand Award and is widely regarded as one of the finest restaurants in Asia. The restaurant features contemporary French cuisine, including the 7-course “Menu Aux Crustacés” and an 8-course seasonal menu, topped off with a trolley of desserts.

Waku Ghin – Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Waku Ghin is the creation of famed Australian Chef Tetsuya Wakuda. Featuring contemporary Japanese cuisine with fresh seasonal ingredients, the restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars in 2019. The daily menus are adjusted for the best ingredients available such as Botan shrimp with sea urchin, and Japanese Ohmi Wagyu beef.

A beautifully designed minimalist setting enhances the restaurant’s exclusive nature and keeps the focus on the food. Waku Ghin only serves 25 diners per seating, in private dining rooms and an intimate 10-person Chef’s table where you can watch the culinary artistry up close.

Aureole Las Vegas – Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas

Aureole was designed as an experience for all of your senses. The James Beard Award-winning Chef Charlie Palmer’s sleek restaurant is located in the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Its American Artisan cuisine is regularly described, by diners and food critics, as absolutely exquisite and features steak and seafood prominently.

The visual center of the dining room is the 10,000 bottle, four-story tall glass wine “cellar” rising up towards the ceiling. Sleekly dressed “Wine Angels” use a system of harnesses and ropes to scale the tower to retrieve your bottle of choice.

Restaurant Guy Savoy – Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

Famed French Chef Guy Savoy (who trained Gordon Ramsay) has been awarded three Michelin stars for his restaurant in Paris every year since 2002. His only fine-dining restaurant outside of France is at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The dining room is exquisitely romantic and even has a view of the Eiffel Tower (although it’s the one located at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel!). Signature dishes include the famous artichoke and black truffle soup, served with a toasted mushroom brioche and truffle butter.

Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse a l’Hotel de Paris, Monaco

Just steps away from the elegant casino in Monte Carlo (think James Bond-level sophistication) is one of the finest restaurants in the world. This opulent, classically European establishment has been awarded three Michelin stars every year since 1989. Chef Alain Ducasse is considered by many to be the Godfather of contemporary French cuisine and has trained a number of the top chefs in the world.

It is no surprise that a meal here, then, is considered to be the experience of a lifetime. Diners routinely describe the elaborate multi-course menus as flawlessly prepared and served by superbly attentive staff. The cuisine includes the freshest Mediterranean-influenced seafood and elaborate desserts, as well as a 400,000 bottle wine cellar.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Better-for-You Deep Chocolate Brownies

You never need an excuse for brownies, and these ones are no exception! Dense, fudgy and perfectly sweet, they are also packed with protein, calcium and whole grains - all for under 150 calories a piece!

One of the many casualties of the pandemic - at least near me - was a low fat brownie mix that was an absolute lifesaver when I was losing weight in my teens and later as a poor college student. It was great - just add water and bake - and was rich enough to kill off a craving without resorting to added frosting or ice cream. Now that my sister (who is a chocoholic like me) is back at work and looking for healthier snack options that would also keep her going, I started looking around to see if there was a way to make brownies that were a bit better nutritionally than the usual bakery kind. After a bit of research and modifications, including adding Naked Collagen and a vegan chocolate protein powder to the dry mixture, I had a working formula.

Needless to say, these were an absolute hit for the fudgy / chewy crowd here. The use of honey keeps these moist and dense for days (and not to negate their health but they make excellent "sandwich cookies" for ice cream) while the Greek yogurt adds just a touch of tang. To top it off, just enough chocolate chips stud the batter and crust of these beauties to accent the rich cocoa flavour and the tiniest hint of coffee. The brownies also happen to be gluten free thanks to the oat flour, but since sis doesn't need to keep GF I'd easily swap in whole wheat pastry flour in the future. The worst part is waiting for them to cool and chill - but I promise the payoff is worth it! 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Simple Rhubarb Pie

 The simplicity of a rhubarb pie is the epitome of late spring and early summer.

Happy blog-day to me! It is crazy to think this little hobby project of mine has been around for 14 years - and in that amount of time I've gone through more rounds of school than I can count, began and ended a career as a Home Economics teacher and definitely improved my cooking, baking and photography skills. Thanks to those of you who have come along for the ride, and to those of you that are just dropping in! 

Now, in the spirit of my off-and-on tradition of presenting a Canada Day / blog anniversary pie, I bring you a quintessentially local one, made with only rhubarb from my backyard. Normally, you'll see rhubarb blends in pies - strawberry, blueberry, and my favourite: cherry. But my mentor and colleague specifically asked for a rhubarb pie this year, as as I was leaving my position at the school I made it my mission to present her with one as my going-away gift. 

Now, for the uninitiated, rhubarb is a stalky vegetable that (at least around here) grows like weeds, is tart and slightly two-faced as the leaves are toxic. It is incredibly versatile, making it's way into sweet and savoury applications throughout the year. To stand alone in pie, though, it needed a decent dose of sugar - making it unlike our standard apple pies where its fruit + pastry without anything else. However, the key is to add only enough sugar to take away the tannic sourness without completely obscuring the flavour! Because this was a special occasion pie, I upped the ante with a sprinkle of coarse sugar on the lattice as well.

You absolutely need to bake this pie on a tray though - the rhubarb has a lot of moisture and it will bubble over! Once it's cooled and chilled though, it slices beautifully and is the perfect foil for a scoop of ice cream.