Thursday, May 5, 2022

Dried Fruit and Pecan Loaf with @selefina.spices

This sweet and spiced Dried Fruit and Pecan Loaf is packed with dried apricots, blueberries and dates, which play off the toasted pecans and oats in the dough beautifully. A generous dash of spices from @selefina.spices ties everything together - try it toasted with cream cheese for a treat!

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Even though the spring weather is starting to creep out and more and more freshness is permeating the world, I have a soft spot for the warming, hearty baked goods all year round. In particular, if I'm making a loaf for breakfast (which is what I'm usually baking for Mom), I know there are a set of unofficial criteria to follow - slightly sweet, hearty (packed with whole grains, seeds, or as my mom calls them "bits"), and good toasted with either a Toast Topper, butter or cream cheese. In essence, it gives me free reign to clean out the pantry and freezer every once in a while, and figure out a way to tie everything together. This loaf was inspired by a plethora of dried fruit I had and bolstered by the recent arrival of a set of brand new spices from Selefina - a sister company to the Adagio teas I love and have reviewed here before. With a quiet afternoon on my hands I decided to create a Dutch-oven baked boule with a bunch of whole grains and the aforementioned ingredients to see how it all worked out. 

The first thing that I realized with this loaf is that the combination of ingredients makes for some happy yeast and a great rise, yet because the loaf is so hearty the crumb remains tight. This, to me, is not a bad thing - I want a piece of bread in the morning that can stand up to toasting or topping (or both), and the flavour was well worth the lack of airiness. The Dutch oven gives this bread a glorious crust too, so even while it may not be incredibly visually appealing, it is well worth the effort!

From the Press Release: The creative team behind Adagio Teas had recently launched Selefina Spices, a new online shop for herbs and spices. Selefina will also differentiate itself from other online purveyors by making its quality products available in small amounts. The objective is to deliver herbs and spices of optimum freshness as well as encourage trial of unfamiliar products and broaden culinary exploration. 

My notes: I love the fact that these spices come in small quantities, opaque, zip-sealed bags, and that the company has such a variety of them! I was sent a very generous variety, and looking at the website I can still see some that I'd love (looking at you, butterfly pea flower, lavender and pasilla chile). The fact that these spices come from a sister company to Adagio, who arguably make some of the best teas I've ever had (I'm still enjoying the last of the advent calendar offerings and can't wait til its iced tea season again) I know I'm getting quality ingredients. These spices are super fresh and potent, so a little goes a long way!

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Jumbo Apple Oatmeal Muffins

These jumbo Apple Oatmeal Muffins are vegan and full of roasted apple chunks and apple compote. A bit of extra flavour and nutrition from @nakednutrition Pumpkin Spice #NakedShake up the ante, making these a great option for a lazy Sunday morning as well as a grab and go breakfast mid week.

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Muffins are such a perfect anytime food. I remember having them as breakfasts or snacks when I was in school, or for a quick energy boost after swimming lessons. They're also a great way to incorporate all those bits and bobs of baking pantry items into a portable snack. Knowing I have work on Sunday mornings, I wanted to make something for the team to enjoy after we wrapped things up and we went on our day. I had a few lonely apples in the fridge and a handful of oats and oat milk which I used as my starting point, and thought adding some of the Pumpkin Spice Naked Shake would be a great idea as well - after all, why wouldn't I add some functional nutrition and extra flavour when I can? 

The best apple muffins I had contained chunks of tender apple inside them, but weren't soggy or dense. To try and recreate that, I opted for a dual approach: a cheater apple compote for moisture and roasted apples for texture. The result was exactly what I wanted - lightly sweet and spiced, a perfect smattering of apple chunks and a hint of nuttiness and texture from the oats. This will be staying on my rotation, especially during the fall when bags of apples appear in our cellar!

Friday, April 1, 2022

Red Velvet Shortbread

I can never say no to red velvet anything - and these cut out cookies have all the flavour of the cake in a portable form! The vibrant colour and burst of flavour comes from Lorann Oils Red Velvet Emulsion, coupled with the tang from vegan cream cheese and a dash of red wine vinegar.

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In the four weeks spanning between my mom's birthday and my sister's birthday, we do a lot of red velvet. And by we, I (of course) mean me! It's really hard to beat the complex flavour that goes into a well made red velvet cake, but I've had success with cookies in the past and decided to try my hand at a type of shortbread. These cookies are tender but not chewy, and have the perfect amount of tang which is something that can be hard to find with these bakes. The colour (and some of the flavour) comes from my favourite "cheat" product, an emulsion-style flavouring for baking from Lorann Oils. It's dark red and smells like red velvet cake batter (and stains everything, so be warned).

I was actually pleasantly surprised with the texture of these cookies, given that I used a mix of fats, including a melted fat, melted chocolate and no eggs. I'm used to shortbread as a 4 ingredient, butter forward kind of cookie, but I (and my family) enjoyed these just as much. I was feeling fancy this week, so I decided to keep these cookies red carpet worthy with gold sanding sugar, nonpareils and silver stars. I'm not a fan of royal icing (and who has that kind of time these days?) so the sprinkles were a quick and easy fix that even my finicky niece liked.

That said - if you don't like sprinkles, they're great as is, with royal icing, or made into decadent sandwiches with cream cheese frosting! Hear me out - cream cheese frosting sandwiches with these, frozen, are the ice cream sandwich you didn't know you needed. Yes, it's decadent, but who needs an excuse to indulge now and then?

Note: I have made these with vegan butter (Earth Balance and Becel sticks) and vegan cream cheese (Follow Your Heart) and it worked beautifully!

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Caramelized Onion Lentil Soup

The cold and damp weather here practically demands comfort food, and what better than a bowl of Caramelized Onion Soup? Simple and wholesome with a bit of an unexpected kick from Aleppo Pepper, it's nutritious, tasty and a perfect work from home (or not) lunch.

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 March is such an in-between month. On one hand, we've had temperatures up to 18C and lots of sun some days, and then there's days like today when it's cold and rainy. Add in the inevitable "last month of class" stress, March Break (with the littles visiting daily), birthdays and appointments, and it seems like we never get a chance to sit down, much less relax. Comfort food has definitely been on the table more often than not, especially big bowls of soup like this one. While not exactly a 90 second microwaveable meal, the time spent to caramelize the onions so that they're sticky and sweet followed by the hour of lazy cooking is quite cathartic, and you're rewarded with many meals that you can pack for lunches or heat up if you (like me) work from home.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Sourdough Irish Soda Bread #BreadBakers

This soda bread gets an added dose of tang from sourdough starter, texture from oats and a hint of spice. Raisins or none, it's up to you!

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I keep forgetting about how delicious and easy soda bread is - I'm usually embroiled in making slow rising sourdoughs, boules filled with a bunch of grains, seeds and fruit, or a batch of sandwich loaves when my creativity is running low. That said, for some reason in March I get a bit of an injection of Irish inspiration and I dig back into our bread books to see what I can do!

I always feel a touch of guilt tossing some of my sourdough starter every time I feed it, so I went on the lookout for recipes to use it this time around. The Gingered Whisk has a great simple recipe for soda bread that used sourdough discard, so I used that as a base and added flavour, fruit and fibre to it while making it vegan (dairy and eggs are getting expensive here). The result was a slightly sweet, deeply flavoured loaf studded with juicy raisins and just enough texture from the oats to be interesting. 

While tradition would be to tear into this while it is still warm and top with copious amounts of butter, my sources say this was still excellent the next morning for breakfast topped with some grape jam (we are still working through the 30 jars we canned last year!), and for tea with butter and honey.

I am hosting this month and asked the others to join me in sharing Irish Breads in honor of St. Patricks Day which is right around the corner.  Let's see what everyone baked up for us today......

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Condensed Milk Cookie Bars

These Condensed Milk Cookie Bars are rich, tender and full of vanilla flavour from @nakednutrition #nakedshake Vanilla. Condensed milk creates almost a caramel note during baking (yes please!) and adds to the chew, while a combination of low gluten flours keeps everything melt in your mouth.

They also get a dose of fibre from #nakedfiber along with all the butter and chocolate!

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Well, school is back in full swing (as if you couldn't tell - I know my posts have been spotty!) and with midterms coming up, let's just say the amount of comfort food needed around here has increased. I've been spending a lot of my free time in the kitchen stress-baking, but since I share my creations with people who have other health and fitness goals I have been trying to be cognizant of that fact, making treats that are both delicious and functional. After making countless batches of these brownies and these cookies (with added protein powder) for my sister, I figured it was time to switch things up a bit and use up some pantry staples that were kicking around. Luckily, the lovely folks at Naked Nutrition had just sent me their vanilla flavour to sample (can you tell that I love these shakes?) and I couldn't wait to add it for some extra oomph.
Like the other Naked Shake products I've reviewed (and baked with) on here, the vegan Vanilla Naked Shake starts with a great tasting pea protein, with the addition of MCT oil, coconut sugar, and natural  flavors. A serving (2 scoops) contains 120 calories, 1.5g of fat, 20g of protein and only 5g of sugar. My sister was actually the one to try this first, mixing it into orange juice for a creamsicle shake. I'm a coffee fiend so this blended with iced coffee would be a perfect pick me up too - when I'm not baking it into cookies and bars that is!

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Mandarin Marmalade - Toast Topper #93

Mandarin Marmalade is laced with homemade Limoncello and is bright, citrusy and as perfect on toast as spread on roasted meats.

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Happy New Year everyone! I am going to try to post the recipes for things I have cooked (and posted on Instagram) in the past but never made it to the blog because - well, timing. Or laziness. Or both! Now that I'm stuck at home for the forseeable future I'm sure new things will be popping up too, so here's to a productive year in the kitchen and at my desk!

I have to say, I haven't been making nearly the amount of Toast Toppers recently as I have in the past - 2021 was definitely not a great year for me physically so the idea of lugging around all the equipment to can was a bit overwhelming. That said, given mandarins are still quite prevalent in the local stores (and I may be a bit inspired from a recent trip to Orange County) I am definitely making this marmalade again. It is bright, refreshing, and with the perfect balance of sweet and tart. The original inspiration for this recipe came from Nigella, and I tweaked it ever so slightly to make a single jar filled with flavour that was both wintry and summery at the same time (is that even possible?).

The jar disappeared quickly of course, since not only was it perfect on toasted sourdough but my mom used it over pork chops and as an ingredient in stir fry as well. Citrus has such a way of working with caramelized flavours that it really isn't hard to imagine it working with other things as well!

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

A Canadian Christmas Feast: Indulge, But Don’t Forget Your Teeth

If there is one time of the year everyone looks forward to, it is the festive season. This is the time that you can spend a lot of quality time with loved ones, including family and friends that you do not see at other times of the year. In particular, one thing that everyone likes to do at Christmas is indulge in delicious foods and enjoy alcoholic beverages. This is part of the celebrations and we all know that the most popular New Year’s Resolution is to lose the holiday weight.

But, one thing you need to make sure that you do is look after your teeth. Your visits to the Jane and Finch dentist (in Toronto) over the course of the year absolutely allow you to enjoy your food this holiday season. You want to have fun at this time of the year. But, you cannot neglect your oral health. Let’s take a look at some ways you can make sure that you are looking after your teeth.

Be Aware of the Sugar

There are so many delicious foods available around Christmas time. For example, everyone likes to indulge and have mince pieces, puddings and Christmas cake. But, one thing you do have to be aware of is that there is a lot of sugar in treats like these. Of course, sugar is something that is not good for your health or your teeth. So, try to be mindful of how much sugar you are consuming and brush your teeth after high-sugar foods.

Always Follow a Routine

Over the festive season, you are going to have a lot of plans. It is likely that you will have time off work and your normal schedule will be all over the place. But, one thing you have to make sure that you stick to is your routine when it comes to your teeth. In other words, no matter how busy or tired you are, make sure that you are brushing your teeth at least twice a day. This includes flossing and other healthy habits. This time of year can be hectic but you have to ensure that you do not pick up any bad habits along the way.

Remember the Bottle Opener

It is actually very common for people to experience broken and cracked teeth around Christmas. The reason for this is that everyone is celebrating and are using their teeth as tools. In other words, they are using their teeth to open bottles during the festive celebrations. This is something that you never want to do. It is very risky and could cost you a lot of money to repair. Therefore, make sure that you have a bottle opener before Christmas day. This way, you are not going to be tempted to dry to open the bottles with your teeth.


Enjoy Some Cheese

You may be wondering why you are being encouraged to eat cheese during the festive season. Well, there is a good reason for this. Cheese is a useful food that is able to achieve neutral acidity in your mouth. This is something that is beneficial for your teeth and it can mean there is a lower risk of decay and damage from other foods you are eating around this time.